Facial Expressions: The Candid Portraits of Itzick Lev
I can’t remember the exact reason why, but I received my first camera (a Kodak brownie) from my father at the age of 12. Somehow, he sensed that it might be interesting for me. However, I got tired of it quite quick because it had very few adjustment possibilities and worst of all only 12 exposures per film … not to mention the hardship of delivering the film to the photo shop and waiting a week to get the results only to find out that it was not what I had wanted to capture. I had to wait about 10 years before I got my first SLR camera, a Konica, which opened for me the real pleasures of and interest in photography. Since then, I have used different kinds of cameras and today I am using a Nikon D800. Photography has a very wide field of possible subjects to focus on, but I have to admit that from the very beginning I was attracted to black & white portraits. Nevertheless, in the beginning, I wasn’t that sure about my preference and I tried other subjects such as landscapes, cityscapes, etc. Slowly, over time, I found myself doing more and more portraits and working considerably less with all the other fields of photography.
Today I am doing mainly street photography with an emphasis on candid portraits. From the beginning, I strove to do candid photography. I didn’t (and still don’t) like the standard “say cheese” pictures; I wanted to capture the candid facial expression. I only had a 50 mm lens and the camera didn’t have any automatic focusing or light metering system, so I had to fix the values at a distance, and then try to come nearer to the subject and shoot from the hip. You can imagine that, at first, I had very few usable negatives to work with. Then I acquired a 135mm lens and life started to become much easier. Today I am using a 300mm lens that can shoot 4-5 frames per second, and I have all the needed automatic measuring systems.
However, before moving further with my story, I feel that I should write a few lines of personal interest. In 1975, we moved from Israel to Denmark– a new country, a new way of life, and especially a new job kept me away from photography. I still traveled with my two cameras, but there were very few picture and even less darkroom work. At the end of the nineties, I tried again and even bought a NIKON F100, but it didn’t help. When the first digital cameras came, it was a disappointment because they could only produce small images– and I wanted to make big pictures. The turning point came with the Nikon D200, which, if I recall correctly, yielded 10.3 MP images.
I was back after a break of almost 32 years.
One of the most exciting moments in street photography is the “hunt.” When you go out to take candid portraits, you don’t know what you are going to catch. You have to rely on your eyes, instincts and quick decision making. When moving in the streets among people, the trick is to blend into the crowd, to not stand out, to move slowly and to be ready. The difficult part is to spot a face from a distance and position yourself in better to capture that face when he/she is closer to you.
With time, I have learned to see almost the finished picture whenever I first see a face, and it helps me a lot in those few seconds that I have to make my up mind to take the image or not.
What I want is to capture a human face and show the feelings and the state of mind of that person at that moment. To accentuate that facial expression, I remove the natural background and place it on a black background. I want the viewer to be alone with the portrait without any other elements that might disturbs his or her attention.
One of the questions that people ask me repeatedly is– where do I find these faces? — a question that amuses me every time I am asked because those faces are everywhere around us. You have only to look around. However, of course, there are places that due to their nature attract more people than others, for example, central squares where people like to hang out, shopping centers and streets, the areas around railway stations or the like. Public events, carnivals, festivals, celebrations, sport events … you name it.
Text and images by Itzick Lev
All images on this page are protected by copyright and may not be used for any purpose, without Itzick Lev‘s permission.
The text on this page is protected by copyright and may not be used for any purpose without Itzick Lev or Nathan Wirth‘s permission.