This was one of my biggest jam point in the earlier stages of my street portraiture was whether my subjects had eye contact with me or not.
You see, as street photographers, we tend to prefer capturing the raw essence of the environment. People in their natural element- nothing staged. I mean that’s what we do what we do (I think). If not the sets would shift more toward art photography, where staging is commonplace. There is nothing wrong with staging per-say, it’s just different, and not something I want. I feel it defeats the purpose of my body of work – to reveal life, capturing emotions.
How does eye contact ruin this? By interacting with your subject.
If he knows you are there, he reacts to you- either positively or negatively usually. Even nonchalance breaks away from the routine he was engaged in. The moment you probably wanted to capture. But this happens sometimes, or it might be impossible to get certain shots without allowing your subject to be aware of your presence prior. Does that make in a bad street photo? Does it mean we have staged the shot? Does this take away from documenting their way of life?
The photograph taken above was in Bintan. It was in somebody’s house I entered after gesturing that I wanted to take a photo. It was the baby’s crib, with its lighting, that initially caught my eye.
However, the father sat down to continue eating, and I went ahead to take the photo, with him looking up directly at me.
In spite of significant interaction with the subject, I believe this photo still encapsulates much of the lifestyle of the family here. In fact, the father’s eye contact only makes the photograph stronger, as it draws you in- captivates you. Yet all the elements, surrounding this contact is preserved in their natural state. I guess the conclusion here is that the focus should be taking a brilliant photograph which suits your style. Even if you’re searching for candid/natural, shots eye contact could help under the right circumstances.
Focus on making a great photo- whatever details that may entail.