Get to know them!
I spend a lot of time reading about photography, both online and in print. I'm always looking for the next thing to improve my photography. Sometimes it's something technical about cameras, lenses, lights, or settings. Sometimes it's something artistic about composition, color, focus, or framing. Sometimes it's about the most important part of portrait photography, people.
One day I stumbled across an article about a persons experience taking on the challenge to photograph 100 strangers, and I couldn't resist taking on the challenge myself.
The goal is not to simply take candid photographs of people unaware of you, but to walk up to somebody, ask if you can take their picture, pose them, and get to know a bit about them in the process. Every one of the strangers I've photographed taught me something technical and artistic (usually through making mistakes), but more importantly I learned a little bit about their lives and backgrounds. After only a few attempts I got pretty good at striking up a conversation, putting the subject at ease, and quickly grabbing a portrait.
Terry Rekow (pronounced like the Spanish "Rico") is the 16th stranger I've photographed. He is a custom saddle maker in Pendleton, Oregon. Terry has been doing this work for 41 years now. He learned the first bits of the trade from his grandfather who was an outfitter and guide who built his own packs for the mule teams he would use to take people hunting and fishing in Hell's Canyon along the Snake River. But much of what he knows was learned on the job over the last four decades. It takes an entire cow's worth of leather and half of a sheep's hide to make a saddle, and Terry can make about 2 to 3 a month. Prices start at around $3,500 for a "basic" saddle, and the sky is the limit from there.
It was good to meet you Terry.
If you haven't read my post about the round up, you should check it out, and I'm also including a link to the article that inspired me to make portraits of 100 strangers.