I claim: you can´t get more authenticity than with people at work! I guess a lot of poeple can´t think of stepping into a store,bakery, coiffeur or whatever, take out their camera and ask if they can take a few pictures. But you being an (silent) observer ensures you getting authenticity and you decide the moment which is worth being captured – not the right facial expression you need to quick pull the trigger.
In fact shooting people at work isn´t an idea that suddenly came to mind like „Ahhh, yes…“ – it is something that just happened to me more or less without realizing I got interested in it. I was attracted by little shops or cafés and those who work there while I was passing and looking through the window. So I just took pictures of what seemed to me to be authentical.
In the small streets of Barcelona in the Barrio of Born or Gòtic for example you could step in in so many shops. During my last visit I wasn´t alone by myself so others wouldn´t have had understanding for me letting them wait in front of the door several times a day.
The good thing about such „photo-opportuninities" is that they are everywhere. For example on my way to the office there are small handicraft producers and it just looks nice having a look through the window and watching them doing their work. So I thought I should step in there and aks if I can take pictures. Until now I did it a few times: my favourite fruit and vegetable shop in a market hall nearby, a Libanese snack bar, a girl in a café, a small shop in Barcelona selling Churros, my coiffeur, people in a Tapas Bar, a guy selling Berliner Curry-Wurst and a shoemaker lady on my way to the office were those I visited or asked so far.
I was a bit shy in the beginning and didn´t really want to ask if I can take pictures but it is really worth it. Not only because of the pics but mainly because of the conversation. For example in the snack bar the guy felt somehow honoured and he rewarded me with a Shawarma in the true original style how he called it. He fixed the bread to the hot grill for a few second so it gets black and a roasty taste and then he put some spicy sauce on the bread and lemon juice. It was a really damn good Shawarma.
The young lady working in the Tapas Bar in the Barrio Raval was very nice, too and she wanted me to take a pic with one of the regular guests – a really old man who probably is there each day – but the old man didn´t want to be on a pic. It was a nice conversation even though we had our problems with the language barriers as I only understand a little bit of spanish an her english wasn´t that good.
My coiffeur was a bit surprised about the old-fashioned Seagull.
But the best shooting was without any doubt the one of the shoemaker lady. I passed this handicraft production for months each day on my way to the office. And it looked so old-fashioned but at the same time very stylish. So a few weeks ago I stepped in there and asked if I can take pictures. She was immediately saying „Yes, if I don´t have to be on one of the pictures!“. I said for sure not but it would be nice if I could take one of her, too. We talked about photography and her Daddy and his camera she used when she was a girl. It was a really nice conversation. She wanted to take a look through the viewer of the Seagull and was like „What the hell is this?“ when I pulled the Diana out of my bag.
There is one thing that all these meetings had in common: it was authentical. The Curry-Wurst guy, the Snack Bar guy, the shoemaker, chez le coiffeur or the Churros sellers: they all didn´t stop doing what they had to do or what they were there for. They didn´t take their time or ask if they should do some posing here and there and if is better this way. They just kept on working talked to me in the meantime and I could take pictures of whatever I wanted.
For sure it would be nice to take portraits of shopowners in front of their shop but I keep it with “Moustache” of the Billy Wilder movie: But that´s another story.