Strangers of Nottingham
Full-time property photographer, teacher of commercial photography at Nottingham Trent University and street photography workshop conductor Crash Taylor speaks to us about his ongoing project…
Tell us about your project and how it all came about?
I actually started shooting random strangers in 2010, but not with a project in mind. It wasn’t until October 2016 when I thought I’m going to photograph 500 strangers in my home city and ask them to make a wish after the portrait. Next, I would create a website, social media feeds and in the future an exhibit ion and book with all proceeds going to the Save the Children charity. I’m hoping the exhibition and book will be completed this year. This is my first serious long-term project, which I’m enjoying immensely.
How did you get started in photography?
My father was an amateur photographer who always wore a Canon AE-1 around his neck. He took some awesome portraits of my brother and I and many others. For my 8th birthday, he bought me my first camera, which was a Polaroid. That year, I took it to Mexico and documented the whole adventure. I would say that camera and trip laid the foundation for my love of all things photography.
What do you look for in your subjects? How do you approach them?
It’s simple really. I walk the city streets looking for a stranger who gives me a certain feeling inside, which I cannot describe. I then approach them in a calm manner, introduce myself and explain the project. Next, I usually show them the website or Instagram feed. At this point, I pay them a compliment and ask if I can make a portrait before asking them to make a wish. This whole process usually takes no longer than two minutes. I leave them with a business card and thank them for their time.
Since I was a kid, I have always wondered what others wish for in life. It’s something very personal and intriguing to me. This project gave me the opportunity to approach strangers who visually inspire me, but more importantly to find out what they are wishing for at the moment I take their portrait.
What technical aspects do you consider when creating your shots?
I love my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens attached to the Canon 5D Mark IV. I usually shoot it on aperture priority at f/2. The 5D Mark IV is the best camera I have ever owned. So much detail, dynamic range, speed and an amazing auto focus. system. Recently, I had the opportunity to test a Fujifilm GFX-50s medium format digital beast, which I loved and hopefully one day when the piggy bank explodes I will purchase one.
The project has been going for a while now, how often do you shoot?
My son and I try to shoot every two weeks. Nottingham is full of characters, so we always return home with portraits to edit. The project is always progressing and in the next few months, we’re going to produce a behind the scenes video documenting the entire process and workflow. It’s highly addicting to approach random strangers and ask them what they‘re wishing for in life. If you haven’t shot a stranger street portrait, grab your camera and do it today!
Which photographers have influenced you most?
Obviously, Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts for their genius in creating a simple portrait with so much impact. Unfortunately, these masters are no longer with us, but their work is still admired across the globe. A few photographers who have influenced and inspired me lately are Eric Almas, Lee Jeffries, Jessica Drossin, David Uzochukwu, Alessio Albi and Zhang Jingna. All top-notch portrait photographers who are pushing the boundaries all things portraiture.
Can you give us your tops tips for photographers trying to improve their photography?
I tell all my students to shoot every day, constantly experiment, learn the rules, break the rules, shoot what you love and buy a very comfortable pair of walking shoes. These tips have made me a better photographer and still do to this day.
What are your future plans for the project?
Future plans, an exhibition in October along with a fine art book with all proceeds going to the Save the Children charity.