For me the most “out-of-my-comfort-zone” type of photography is making portraits of strangers. I have missed so many opportunities for fear of a negative reaction, but when it does happen, it is my most rewarding work. Case in point- a recent experience in Tuscany. An intriguing gentleman stood out to me every time I walked past him during our 3 days in the medieval town of Cortona. I HAD to photograph him, and I did. Here are 10 photographs that show my process, and hopefully my progress, in getting over my fear and getting acquainted with this man. (Spoiler alert: As it turns out, he’s a famous artist!) The rest of the story is told with each photo.
With sincere gratitude to Luciano Radicati, for honoring me with one of my best memories of our time in Tuscany.
Photo 1 (day 1): A “street photo”, taken without Luciano’s knowledge. (But then again, he’s an artist, and artists notice everything….) Interesting photo, but I wanted more. I shared with my husband Gary how much I would love to get a “real” portrait of him.
Photo 2 (day 2): A photo of an interesting alley near where I frequently observed Luciano hanging out. I didn’t know at the time that the poster was Luciano’s work, that he was a famous artist, and that his gallery was up the alley on the right.
Photo 3 (day 3): We finally walked up this alley simply because it looked interesting, and we turned into a small art gallery. What a shock it was to see the guy I wanted to photograph! He spoke English fairly well, so we talked about his work. I purchased a small sketch that he had made to prepare for a larger canvas. I asked the artist if I could take a photo of him with the pieces, and he graciously agreed. The lighting was poor, but I was happy to have made a connection with this intriguing man. That afternoon, my husband and I packed our bags and moved on to our next accommodation in the valley below Cortona.
Photos 4-5 (day 10): Seven days later we returned to Cortona for a wonderful dinner as part of a guided tour of Tuscany. Of course, I used our free time to walk by Luciano’s usual post. He was there, engaged in an animated conversation with another gentleman. I waited a while for a break in the conversation but soon realized that it could go on for hours. I swallowed my fear, excused my interruption, and reminded Luciano that we had met previously. I went on to explain that I really wanted a good photo of him, but the one I took in the shop didn’t turn out so well. He was very willing, and proved how photogenic he is!
Photo 6: I asked Luciano if he would like me to email him the photos I took. He was very appreciative and walked to his gallery to get me a card with contact information.
Photo 7: Meanwhile, my husband and Luciano’s friend had struck up a lively conversation, so I wanted to document that as well as Luciano’s return to his usual post.
Photo 8: When I walked down the alley to stand with the three men, I saw the photo I had been waiting for! I positioned myself, asked permission, and took this photo.
Photo 9: My brother Randy happened to be observing the whole process and took this wonderful photo of me showing Luciano the most recent photo on my camera. Luciano was very pleased.
Photo 10: The sketch I purchased is now framed and sitting in my office as a reminder of this wonderful experience. This is why I am passionate about photography and so thankful for how it has opened so many doors for me!