All images by Debabrata Ray. Used with permission.
Debabrata Ray is based in Copenhagen and takes a particular liking to the people there. We’ve interviewed him before, and his newest project “People of Copenhagen” is loosely inspired by Humans of New York.
“While the purpose of the HONY project was different, for me I wanted to take portraits of the people of Copenhagen with a different purpose.” he tells the Phoblographer. To start, he thinks that the people there are incredibly good looking.
“…the average person is really fit, they have sharp features and they have an amazing dressing sense (even though 99% of the color they wear is Black)”
Combine these fantastic subjects with the fact that he loves to take portraits and shoot fashion, and you’ve given Deb a street-style photographer’s dream.
Phoblographer: How did you go about explaining your project to people and assuring them that you weren’t some sort of a stalker?
Deb: Having a photo taken by a complete stranger – that too one whose not Scandinavian (pretty evident with me) can be quite disconcerting. However the people of Denmark in general i’ve observed, are really very friendly and broad minded. They’re very easy to approach (even though they might seem serious at first) and are very warm and friendly to speak to. I would just walk up to them and tell them that I am a photographer who is doing a project of shooting street portraits of strangers. I would tell them that in return for the picture I take, I will send them a full resolution picture which they could use as their portrait.
A few of those pictures ended up as FB DPs for some of the folks I took pictures of. I made sure I took each and everyone of their email addresses (the ones who would give them to me) and I sent them an edited copy of their photograph which I had taken. Some would reply back, however most wouldn’t bother. The other thing I made sure was that I kept the list of email addresses and the previous portraits I took in my memory card. So when I walked up to someone – I would show them the previous portraits I had taken, and the list of email addresses. This was key in breaking the trust barrier with these people who accepted to be a part of my project.
In the end I think its a matter of conviction and mannerisms which matter as well. I would never ask a person twice who has once said no to being photographed, but then just wished them a nice afternoon / evening depending on the time of day I was shooting.
Phoblographer: What were you trying to capture in these people?
Deb: I was looking for interesting faces and / or clothes. Mostly interesting faces, faces with character that would appeal to me and want me to take their picture. I was looking for a certain aesthetic combination of the 3 factors I talked about in the 1st question in all of these people that I photographed. Although some of the pictures were purely based on the character of the subject’s faces.