Photo Essay

Carnival Portraits

Carnival 14

The images were captured during the summer of 2005, 2006, and 2007 at three different local carnivals almost as an accident: I was just taking some family snapshots, when I noticed one of the workers looking-on with a very stoic expression. Interestingly, I saw many of the same workers at all three venues. Some see irony in the portraits – a sense of depression among the workers. I see a bit of this, but mostly just portraits of hard workers trying to make a very tough living – the carnival might be fun for attendees, but often not for the workers who are just trying to make a buck (or two, or three...).

The muted colors in the images, taken at dusk or night without flash, are supposed to be sympathetic without being garish or patronizing, and attempt to reveal a sensitivity rarely shown when documenting this subject.

From the first photo to the latest, I learned quite a lot about "street portrait" photography. In the beginning, I was mostly afraid to simply ask for a photo. Typically, the approach was "I'll play your [rip-off] game of chance for $5 if you let me take your picture." However, for the photos from 2007, I gained some courage and tried a different approach – I just started talking to the workers, trying to get to know them. Not all of them had sad stories, but most did. After a few minutes of conversation (and yes, I always tried to play their games), I simply asked "I'd like to remember this conversation, can I take your picture?" I tried to remember what I learned from the few minutes of conversation – many of the portraits include a short commentary based on my recollection.

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