As a street photographer, how far do you go to engage with strangers? Crash Taylor, currently a UK based photographer, not only asks strangers to pose for a portrait but also asks to reveal their deepest wish. Find out how he does it!
Taylor, who is currently residing in England but born and raised in Los Angeles, was introduced to the love of social photography through his father, who'd create beautiful portraits of him and his brother. Starting young, Taylor used money gifted to him and purchased his first camera, a Polaroid, on his 8th birthday which he then took on a vacation to Mexico. The trip was life changing for Taylor and his passion for all things photography was deeply rooted within him. Further on, life took Taylor to study business and cinematography, presently he is studying for a Masters degree in photography, while teaching at the renowned photography school at Nottingham Trent University and conducting private workshops throughout the UK.
The street photography portrait project arose as a part of Taylor's degree but also through his personal need of seeking more personal connections with people around him. Breaking away from the comfort of family and friends, Taylor sought to throw himself in the deep end and simply start building rapport with strangers, pushing himself not just as a photographer but also as a person. Observing the vast majority of people being glued to their mobile phones while out in coffee shops with their friends or family, Taylor knew he has to do something to break away from the currently present disconnection many of us seem to have with people all around us.
His project, "Strangers of Nottingham", was the ideal escape into the real world where people still talk to each other, and where photography has connection to the masters of portraiture who inspired Taylor through this journey, such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, and Herb Ritts. The essence of the project is documenting the wonderfully diverse society around us and asking strangers to leave Taylor with their one deepest wish, which he then documents and adds next to each and every stranger's portrait on the project's website.
The project has taken Taylor all over the world and he's built new personal and business contacts, which is inspiring for those who are unsure on whether to take on a personal photography project or not. Not just that, it's also eye opening and allows one to engage with people from all walks of life that they may otherwise never meet.
For those curious about what kind of equipment Taylor uses, it's a Canon 5D Mark IV combined with a Sigma 50mm Art lens. Although equipment to Taylor is somewhat irrelevant because it is the unique connection he builds with the strangers that creates an engaging photo, he is planning on selling this lens and camera combination and moving across to Fuji camp with the new medium format Fujifilm GFX-50R which will be paired up with the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR lens.
The goal is to reach 300 portraits before planning an exhibition and fine art book of the project, with the proceeds of it all going to the "Save the Children" charity. With the current progress of around 200 strangers, Taylor is still going strong and doesn't intend to stop. It's not surprising since so far nine out of ten strangers have let Taylor take their portrait, and those who declined the opportunity, have done so politely. Often asked how does Taylor have the confident to approach strangers, he explains that his way of working is quite simple, "I let my two eyes guide me. When I’m out, I’m always looking at people. Looking for that certain person." Whether it is their personality or their choice of clothing, there's always someone that will stand out.
The last part of the project is one that's even more so personal than taking a portrait. A naturally curious person, Taylor lets his strangers reveal to him what they currently wish in life. Most answers concern peace, health and happiness, instead of money or material possessions which is quite refreshing to know!
If you'd like to follow Taylor's project, view "Strangers of Nottingham" Instagram page where you can read more about every stranger who has been photographed or visit Taylor's personal Instagram page to learn more about his work.
Lead image used with permission by Jake Taylor.