16 November 2009

And so....








Yesterday, while walking my dog, I made a decision that filled me with relief but also sadness.
This project has reached its natural end. I think I knew it was coming, but didn’t want to say it out loud.
When I began photographing faces back in February, it was mostly a little experiment. Was I brave enough to ask strangers and could I get a decent picture in a moment? I decided it was good practise and had no idea how long it would go on. I liked the idea of a year, but would have been pleased with a full month of faces!
The project started to change very early on. Rather than just jotting down a first name, I began to chat a little with those I had photographed. The feedback I got was that people liked this. They liked to see the faces with the stories. And so did I.

I am a photographer, but I am also a busy mum of two young children, a wife, and a youth counsellor. I’m living a very ordinary life, apart from those times when I’m pacing the streets in Norfolk, trying to summon up the courage to approach somebody and say the words I’ve said over and over “excuse me…this may sound odd…I’m doing a project about faces in Norfolk…I couldn’t possibly take your photograph..could I?”
Most people said yes, perhaps it helped that I looked as nervous as they did. I was nervous. Approaching strangers has never got easier as time has gone on. The most common response was ‘..my face…?!’
This project has been an extraordinary experience. I am so grateful to every single person that said yes, that stood patiently as I asked them questions and then answered those questions. It’s not every day that somebody stops you on the street, photographs you in front of everybody walking by, and then asks ‘what are you afraid of?’ or ‘what is your earliest memory’. I have been so amused, touched and occasionally humbled by some of the things that have been said, not all of which I could include! One man, a big strong man, 6 ft plus, who welled up when mentioning his divorce. The most important thing was that this project remained respectful. I told people that if they did not like the photograph, or changed their mind, they should let me know. This only happened once.
A highlight for me was receiving a comment on the Visitors’ Book from a doctor at the hospital, telling me “The project gave me pause for thought and reminded me of why I chose to become a doctor: people.” I still feel so touched by this.
And another man who called to say thank you – that he had been noticed before for his music, but never for just him or his face.
I’m so proud of this project. I didn’t get every single photograph looking exactly as I hoped, I had to take what I got in the time that I had – but I still love looking at every single face. I tried to make it as varied as I possibly could. More men said yes than women, and younger women more often said yes than older. Women between 40 and 60 were least keen.

And now, with more demands in my everyday life, not least a new dog that needs walking twice each day, work, and an awareness that going out to find faces has become much more of a pressure, I want to stop the project while I am still happy with it. 250 faces feels like a good number. I hope to have a further exhibition of some of these images in the New Year
The photography of course will continue. Along with the general work, I will be going out and about and exploring more candid street photography. A different sort of challenge, but one I’m excited about! I will begin a new blog for this very soon. Huge thanks to everyone who has dropped by to look or to leave a comment. And huge thanks to those who have become a fan of this project!

3 comments:

  1. Max I am sad you've decided to stop, but also pleased that I have been able to see the faces you have posted, and to share a little of their lives. I left Norwich 11 years ago but still miss not living there. Seeing the Norfolk faces you post reminds me of the good times I had there. I think you are an exceptionally taleneted photographer and look forward to seeing your next project.

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  2. I have enjoyed looking at the faces of Norfolk.and would not have found your project if you had not taken a photograph of my mother.
    It has been interesting to look at the changes in peoples faces from when I first moved to Norfolk(that was before the big influx of people from London and the Midlands).It was also exciting to look up your new faces,just in case there was someone else you had photographed that I knew!
    I liked the little "chatty" bits underneath the photographs,they really made the faces come alive.
    Thank you for alot of pleasure,and I am sorry that it has finished

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  3. I've loved loved loved this project. thanks so much!!!!!

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