How I brought photos of portraits onto Parramatta’s streets

In the same way that Daniel Palmer notes in his book Photography and Collaboration Photography and Collaboration, portraiture is, by definition, collaboration and relational. The process of photographing portraiture naturally involves subjects and photographers together to produce a photograph.

Within the context of this project, bringing people together for a photo creates jolly chances for social interactions between strangers.

I use my camera phone in the mirror to assist participants in applying their lip gloss while an audio editor for The Conversation Podcast captures our conversations. Cherine Fahd, Being Together: Parramatta Yearbook (2021-2022)

It’s amazing to hear how strangers can share their stories with me within 5 minutes.

Two men confess that they are brothers but haven’t been seeing one another for ten years.

One woman has told me that she thinks she’s ugly. She wants me to help her look attractive.

Another vividly describes the beautiful flowers she has gathered from her garden community.

One man mutters that the man doesn’t speak English.

Another person tells me that he’s elated to get to lunch.

Two brothers, on the day they get reunited. Cherine Fahd, Being Together: Parramatta Yearbook (2021-2022)

We talk about everyday things, weather, COVID, shopping, as well as Rugby League.

There are tales of time in jail and the lives that were transformed.

Newcomers to Australia discuss their families in other countries, and people who have spent their entire lives in Parramatta offer their thoughts on the city.

These are the kinds of stories photography isn’t able to capture in the stillness of a photograph; however, there’s an excuse not to continue.

Performing photography

Setting up a studio in the streets and inviting passersby to take pictures before the camera is something to be seen. We’ve always had a crowd of curious passersby, and soon they were taking pictures.

If you examine the pictures, you can see conversational features and warm gestures: small movements of the body that people hug or hold hands, as well as space between the bodies, and instances when we are caught on camera laughing, talking, and putting lipstick on.

The warm gestures of affection can be seen in the details of the collages in the yearbook. Cherine Fahd, Being Together: Parramatta Yearbook (2021-2022)

I also imagine myself as a person in action. I am a photographer as well as a subject, a person dressed in red, desperate to connect with people to guide them through a photograph or pose for a photo and to be uncomfortable.

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