Photography: Collaborating And Working With Subjects

Sloane Dakota Tucker is a local fine art photographer, specializing in portraits all across the spectrum. As a business, she's cultivating a portfolio of lifestyle and wedding work. As an artist, she aims to meet and work with others that tell specific and inspiring stories through their words and the images they create together.

Ahead, Sloane shares her experience on collaborating and working with subjects . . . 

 
 

I must open this piece with an important fact about myself: I am not an extrovert. By no means do I see myself as an individual that enjoys meeting new people on a regular basis. In fact, it’s mostly exhausting. However, when I meet someone that’s ready to get in front of my camera, the interaction can be refreshing.

I began portrait work before it was my business, while working mainly in collegiate fine arts a few years ago. Sticking to my comfort zone, friends were my subject of choice. Soon after a few projects rolled out, a professor casually questioned the notion of photographing my friends by asking, “What if you photographed someone you didn’t know?” The gears haven’t stopped turning since. The following assignment was executed with a goal to only work with new subjects.

Yes, the factor of meeting new people solely to photograph them was nerve racking, but not paralyzing. When a goal is set, it’s hard to let it go before you’ve done your best to execute the finished product.

How, you might ask, did I find those first subjects?

I used the one platform where I knew hundreds of people I had never met before: Instagram. From my intern work with A Creative DC and other known artists in the city, my eyes were opened to all the channels that connect the underground (coming above ground) district creative scene, Instagram being a large contributor. Those I met in person would tell me to follow others I hadn’t, a cycle I found occurring more than once.

Throwing caution to the wind and keeping expectations low, I posted an advertisement looking for female subjects for my next film (or analog) project. That post returned with nearly 20 responses from women I had never met before, filling me with warmth and encouragement.

 
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For editing and time related purposes, I chose 6 young women to photograph. Each of them I briefly met once, or never. Using the most antiquated cliché, after the first woman and I met, the rest was like riding a bike. I learned that there’s not much of a technical difference between working with someone you know vs. a stranger. Changing your process reminds you that you’re moving forward, adapting to fresh ways of thought.

Opening this social media labyrinth has granted me the opportunity to cultivate projects in very specific categories. For instance, I’ve recently developed a fascination with language and communication and its relation to personal identity. I wanted to create a photo/audio installation all about bilingualism, which I titled Project Babel. This work ended with 10 subjects, my largest number to date. Only two subjects were friends, the rest were strangers who came forward from word of mouth and Instagram ads. Project Babel would not have been possible without that break out of my comfort zone.

For any portrait photographer or woman that might read this and are thirsting for more collaborators in their network, the only advice I really wish to give is that you only need to ask. Putting any doubt and fear aside to test the waters and see who’s interested in what you’re trying to grow will surprise you. Yes, there will be moments when the results aren’t meeting your intentions, but there’s always room for a learning experience. The beauty of cultivating something you care about the most is that you never have to do it alone.

Thank you so much for sharing, Sloane!

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