It's Their Show
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Back in my days as a juggling street performer, my mentor Bob (“the Butterfly Man”) Nelson always emphasized to me the show belongs to the audience, not the performer. He explained the audience really didn’t care if you could do five club backcrosses; they wanted to be amused, not amazed.
My wife hears me complain almost every Sunday about how few preachers understand this simple concept. The artist who performs to amaze other artists and not to feed their audience is a bad artist, whether they be preachers, paperfolders, magicians or photographers.
So when I take pictures, I always let my subject dictate how they look. They ask me if they should smile, I tell them it’s totally up to them.
I walked up to this guy at the bus station downtown, and asked for his picture. He asked me what he should do, and I didn’t say a word, because he was already taking his sunglasses off and putting them on his head. He asked if he should take off his hoodie. I said nothing. He adjusted his hoodie just so. And then snap, his picture, just the way he wanted to be.
I’ve been studying light a lot recently, and I knew as soon as I saw him how special the light was. I did my part as an artist, but what he wanted for the show made the art.
It’s his picture, not my picture.