The reflective lens / by Glenn Dixon

Nishi Hongan-ji

Kyoto, Japan 2013

Some people feel more comfortable behind a camera lens than within its field of view. Be wary though - behind the camera you cannot hide. When you create a photograph or piece of moving imagery, you cannot escape being represented within. We may not see your physical form but we can certainly gauge how your presence is received in the immediate environment. When photographing people your manner and emotional state is reflected inside the subject's eyes. If you are awkward, disrespectful or rude it will show in their expression. The camera is a mirror.

For me, image creation is as much about cultivating relationships as it is about exposing celluloid to sun. If you are tentative or reluctant to get up close and engage with people your images will be equally as distant - physically and emotionally.

A portrait captured through a wide angle optic has a sense of inclusion and intimacy that the identical scene framed through a long telephoto optic lacks. The photographs above, Nishi Hongan-ji, were created using a mid-long optic. To me, they feel less intimate than the proceeding photographs captured up close with a very wide lens. The diagonal lines are exaggerated, pulled and strengthened by the wide angle perspective. As a result your attention is pulled dramatically into the heart of the story.

Wood carving workshop

Nara, Japan 2013

I find approaching someone who does not share a common language easier than requesting a photograph of an English speaker. With limited oral language you are forced to communicate warmth and respect through your body. This can be a lot of fun as you can turn your lack of language into an amusing joke at your own expense. You are vulnerable, on unknown ground and at the mercy of a stranger. More often that not people will warm to you if you are politely inquisitive and genuine.

If you do not wish to be emotionally exposed and represented in a photograph, perhaps the safest place for you, rather paradoxically, is to hide in front of the lens.

The man represented in the photographs directly above was a dentist. For him carving teeth is second nature. Just after taking his portrait he admitted in a hushed tone, 'The mouth was easy. The other parts very difficult'.