The Intimate Experience of Taking a Portrait

A few months ago a few friends started an organization (Más Humana. Más Humano.) in our hometown in Mexico to bring awareness to social issues and to promote all kinds of good values. I am not officially part of this organization, however I believe in their principles and support their projects and collaborate with them as much as I can. My first collaboration was with a project called "45 and over" in which we photographed 30+ women who were 45+ years young. Each photo included a statement from each person in which they talked about some of the things they have learned throughout their life. Our goal was to shine the spotlight on them for a moment and show them how beautiful they truly are inside and out. 

I knew I wanted these portraits to be intimate, to shine each person's character through them. We held this event at a coffee shop we love, and asked for permission to take over a section of the place to build a set. Being held at a public space, I thought it would be hard to get that intimacy I was looking for. We were ready to receive all these beautiful ladies from which I probably knew a very few.

As soon as I started shooting our first guest, something magical happened. It was as if nothing else existed, only her and me. And for the few minutes we had together, we bonded. We talked about her and about the things she loves. We talked about the kind of stuff that really matters but we don't usually talk about. Like the Little Prince said "when you tell grown ups you've made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you 'What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?'"

By the time we were finished with every participant, I had received more hugs in a day than ever before. I had seen more than 15 women cry, and I comforted them. I had a brief moment with each of the 30+ women who participated and I connected with them as if we had been long-time friends. For a few minutes they felt free to be themselves and to share their personal life with a stranger who was photographing them. And maybe we all need this moment with a stranger to bond, to be and to share.