three party portraits (including joe vs the floorboards)

It was an art gallery opening, I think. The white paper letters belonged to one of the minimalist installations - or decorations. Whichever it was, it had partially collapsed, leaving Sesame-Street-style block letters strewn across the suitably rustic floorboards. I was standing with Joe, and perhaps some others, when I looked down and saw 'O' and 'E' at our feet. That almost spells Joe! I pointlessly exclaimed. A lightbulb flashed behind taka's eyes and he vanished, momentarily returning with a wonderfully jagged handmade 'J' to complete my picture.

I've never been able to successfully recreate my 'people vs walls' (etc.) portraits in black and white. The detail generally gets lost without contrasting colours. This, though - this is something else. The exposure in both compositions is just right, and the haphazard position of the letters adds interest. Joe's warm smile also contributes significantly to the image's overall success.

It was freezing out on the balcony but the liquor was flowing and spirits were accordingly elevated. Someone spotted the camera conspicuously hanging from my neck and proceeded to orchestrate a group portrait. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the Holga flash isn't strong enough for such a far-away shot, so I chose to waste a few dollars on a photo that wouldn't work in order to avoid rejecting a stranger (or was it taka?) and the ensuing social awkwardness. Get in closer! I yelled in an attempt to hide my cynicism.

But hey! It worked after all. Some people look great, some people look blurry, some people have their eyes closed. Consequently, some might say it's not a great portrait. I say, if I'm trying to accurately capture a group of people at a party then the combination of closed eyes, blurry faces and hot babes is not a bad representation at all.

The buzz had died. The music had deteriorated. The cold had reached the bones. It was time to leave. Of course, not everyone shared my fatigue - and I did have one more shot left on the roll. Attentions were adequately hazy, allowing me to get in close without being noticed. I doubt even the split-second beam of intrusive brightness alerted these subjects to my activity.

In a way, this is my favourite kind of party portrait. Although it doesn't have the aesthetic flair of the Joe photo nor the jovial vibe of the group shot, it's a moment that would have existed exactly as it is with or without my presence. It's more real than the others precisely because of that. Also interesing is that even though Adrian (on the left) is fully visible and takes up around 40% of the frame, it is undoubtedly a portrait of Seán. I suspect it's because Seán is the more active partcipant; he talks while Adrian listens.

People have asked me if I feel self-conscious or embarrassed when I venture into the night with a camera floating at my chest or nestled under my arm. And I say Never. Because if nothing else, photography should provide a view into a time and a place. Memories for those that were there; insight and vicarious experience for those that weren't. If the photos happen to be interesting at other levels, all the better. What I will hopefully end up with is an ever-growing collection of images that can potentially tell a million stories. Which is totally worth any suspicious or judgemental looks that might come my way.

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