In this showcase series we feature the Glasgow street portrait photography of Charles Hamilton. Charles is a photographer based in Scotland, he spoke to us to give us full context to this series.
Charles, how did you get started in photography?
My interest in photography grew during 1984 when I finished college. I bought a second hand enlarger and other processing equipment and learned to develop film and print in black and white.
I started photographing trees and winter scenes in the countryside around where I lived with my Olympus OM1 and then realised photographing people around the streets of Glasgow, London and Paris is what I enjoyed most.
During the 1990’s and 2000’s demands of family life took over and I didn’t really take many photographs other than family snaps. Just over three years ago a couple of friends drew my attention to Flickr.com and I became amazed and inspired by the quality of the images by some great photographers from all around the world that could be seen on the site.
I bought a Nikon D90 and joined a local photographic club, where I was encouraged and received helpful advice from experienced club photographers. I began again photographing local autumnal scenes, before being drawn once more to street portrait photography.
Can you tell us more about this Glasgow portrait series?
Over the years I have come to know Glasgow well, I’m familiar with the character of its old sandstone buildings and city streets. Glasgow is now a vibrant cosmopolitan city with many interesting faces from countries all around the world. There’s style on Buchanan Street, heart and soul in the characters of Trongate and Gallowgate and I have a passion for photographing people in this city.
With my Glasgow street portraits I began photographing buskers, Big Issue sellers or even beggars. If I gave some money they’d usually be quite happy to be photographed or to act as a focal point in an image with something else going on in the background.
When there were no buskers around I would then start to look for who I thought were interesting, exciting, colourful characters and approach them and ask if I they would mind if I could photograph them as part of my Flickr project.
Sometimes I would walk for ages and not find anyone that catches my eye and then I will spot someone in the distance out of the blue. As I would move towards them I would look around and assess if a nearby location would make a suitable background. And if the light is right and the subject agrees to the photograph then that’s fantastic.
Getting the right expression is important. I was trying to photograph a gentleman on the Gallowgate recently and he said to me “I’ll tell you how to get the right expression” and he shouted “hurry up!” I clicked the shutter just at that moment!
Do you always get a good response from your potential subjects?
Most of the people I ask are happy or even flattered to be photographed. Some are patient with me and understanding as I try to compose the shot or make adjustments to my camera and I am always pleased when they respond to my business card and I am able to email the image to them. With some people I have to be quick or the opportunity’s gone.
And of course not everyone wants to be photographed. On an occasion recently I had to make a very quick get away through a back door at the Barras Market to escape from an angry junkie after I’d tried to photograph his girlfriend. Mistakes and rejections happen so often you have to dust yourself down and try another day.
What equipment did you use for this street portrait photography series?
I now use a Nikon D7000 with either a 50mm 1.8 or a 35mm 1.8 Nikkor lens. There is a significant improvement in image quality compared to the D90 although they are almost identical to look at and carry. I think that the colours are more vibrant with the D7000 and with more detail is captured in darker areas for example. In Photoshop the saturation level rarely has to be altered although I do make adjustments to levels on my images.
With regards to lighting I’ve always used natural light that is apart from a series of night time portrait shots which I took below the artificially lit Highlandman’s Umbrella on Argyle Street a couple of winters ago. I have a reflector but unfortunately on the street I have never yet made use of it.
You can see more of Charles’ work via his Flickr account.
Photophique has express permission to publish these images and Charles Hamilton retains full copyright to all photographs featured in this showcase series.