I've blogged recently bemoaning my lack of ability to take pictures of people, so I won't go into that again in detail but there was an observation I wanted to get off my chest and I guess here's the place...
Every year Galway, normally a vibrant, fun town, goes just a little bit more mental. For two weeks at the end of July the city is host to what is probably Ireland's best Arts Festival. Galway is perfect for this; art has always pervaded the culture and the spirit of the place, and its regular citizens, blow-ins and tourists alike embrace and enjoy this spirit - indeed, it makes Galway what it is. (something I'd like to talk about one day, but not here)
Galway puts on a splendid show: besides the organised events, the main street in Galway, Shop Street, is host to an astonishing density of buskers and street entertainers for the two weeks (at the best of times one is never more than 20 or 30 feet from a busker, but this distance probably halves for the duration of the Arts Festival. The quality ranges from the mundane to the inspired, but even the most uninteresting of the entertainers add to the incredible atmosphere you can't help but notice walking down the street. It's easy to lose yourself in it, and think you are in Paris or London, in the middle of a teeming metropolis rather than the reality, which is a small town of sixty thousand people - the last outpost of 'civilisation' in Western Europe.
Anyway, I had a point here somewhere, and I'll strive to return to it. Shop Street for the couple of weeks of the Arts Festival would be a haven for somebody interested in candid people photography. Even me, with my stunted ability for whatever reason, can at least try - taking pictures of strangers bothers and scares me greatly, less so buskers on the street, and much less so again people like the one in the photos below. There's something about face paint or a costume, that puts a great barrier between the photographer and its subject. Probably a pain for somebody more skilled or brave, for me it allows a welcome disassociation and allows me to take a photo without thinking that this is a real person who may be guarded about their image or privacy.
When somebody's very act is visual, it's much easier to take photos. Even with a musician, while obviously I wouldn't be afraid to listen to their act, I would still feel slightly uncomfortable taking their photo because they have not explicitly put their image, just their music in the spotlight. People dressed up, such as human statues, or other visual art, such as dancers or jugglers, invite pictures as much as they invite you to look. This is great for me. While the pictures below (yes, this rant will end soon, and their will be pictures!) aren't amazing - they don't show anything extra-ordinary or great emotion, they at least allow me to practise ,without fear, the techniques of portrait photography. So amen to that.