Eye contact or not

When doing snapshots of people in the street it is good to vary how subjects are referenced with the photographer/viewer. One important factor for that purpose is eye-contact (or not). Having an eye-contact with the subject is often rewarding and might make the shot. It also involves the photographer/viewer in the scene, making her/him taking part of it in some way, which can be an important for the photograph impact.  Sometimes eye-contact happens so quickly that you can’t even notice it in the viewfinder, which means that you can miss it if you click the wrong moment. Some experience, instinct and a bit of luck are necessary…

The following pictures have both single person for subject matter, with similar prominence in the shot. One with eye-contact, the other without.

Girl entering Park Street station

Girl entering Park Street station

The first shot (above) is that of a young girl entering the Park Street subway station located in Boston Common. I was standing just in the door so she couldn’t miss me ! And therefore eye-contact was not due to chance (not just a quick glance as it is sometimes).  There is not much other things going on here, the upper background has good graphic/dynamic and helps the viewer to focused on the girl’s face. It is a sort of woman shot a-la Winogrand. I like this one because of the energy that comes from this girl, with her hand instinctively searching in the handbag to get her Charlie -Ticket (probably).

Ladies, Washington st.

Ladies, Washington st.

The shot above with the old lady does not have eye-contact and I don’t think it really misses here because of the juxtaposition with the poster behind. Indeed it is the poster girls that substitutes for the missing eye-contact, creating a triangular relationship poster-viewer-old lady. Finally there is a sort of irony here. I think it would be OK with eye-contact, but  the resulting dynamic would be rather different.

1 thought on “Eye contact or not

  1. I agree, eye contact can be very powerful in photography. But the lack there of can still tell you a lot about a person.
    It can be the difference between studio-like portraiture, environmental portraiture, and/or photojournalism.
    Interesting point/idea you bring up.

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