For me, getting the cooperation of subjects for photography is a bit of theater. Although it is a somewhat complex issue, permission is generally not needed to take photos of individuals in a public place if used for non-commercial purposes.
However, taking photos surreptitiously is not the optimal photographic strategy. Although there can be that great candid shot, results are often poor due to the variety of issues one deals with, particularly movement of the subject. Cooperation, when given, allows you to direct the subject, move them, reshoot etc., all with a much more relaxed ease. More importantly, in my case, meeting affords the opportunity to interview and correspond to get a story.
One evening, I spotted three women with striking blonde hair sitting in Washington Square Park. I guessed they may be from Norway. I discussed with my companions my interest in photographing them. They encouraged me. I explained how I was tired and the theater it may require - introducing myself, giving them a card, explaining what I do and for how long, discussing the nature and number of my stories, where they are published, citations and reviews I have gotten, and the overall seriousness of what I do.
All this selling is really not required in most cases, but I do not want to risk getting a negative response, leaving me in a very awkward situation - with no photo permission. I will not try later to take a photo candidly. So failure means no photo at all.
In this particular case, the three women were very accommodating. I learned that, in fact, they were Norwegian. Ingvill Moviken, Cecilie Hahre, and Hanne Svarliaunet are all dancers, here on visas. They were happy to pose in whatever manner I chose. I favored a lamppost which afforded better light and a Singin' in the Rain type of setting.
Cecilie works as a dance teacher at Trude Mossin Ballettschool in Norway. She has a bachelor's degree in Dance from the Norwegian ballett school. She teach ballet, hip-hop, zumba, pilates and jazz.
She completed a biographical questionaire I sent her by email. I asked about her experiences in New York City:
Q. What is it like to be a Norwegian blond woman in the USA? Do
you get more attention than in Norway? Are you too often approached by men?
A. Yea we do. People always want to talk to us, and they are very curious about
us. But in a really positive way. I think is good that the amerikan people are
so open and curious about us. In Norway we could be kind of cold, we never
talk to each other at the bus or subway.
Q. What impressions do you have of New York City? In what ways is it better,
worse or just different from your expectations?
A. I love this city. All the opportunities, you never know what the day will bring. You can go out one day, with nothing to do and then you meet someone and suddenly you are sitting in a penthouse appartment in NYC or talking to people like you! People are so kind. It is never a boring day (like in Norway).
I asked Cecilie if she realized that they were the "American Dream." She said yes. Blonde, Norwegian, charming, friendly, talented, spirited dancers. These are good things but no surprise - because in New York City, sometimes WYSIWYG* :)
*WYSIWYG - A computer acronym, What You See Is What You Get, to describe a system where text and graphics displayed onscreen appears exactly like that when printed.
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