Street Photographer Asks Strangers What They Wish for in Life

Street Photographer Asks Strangers What They Wish for in Life

As a street photographer, how far do you go to engage with strangers? Crash Taylor, currently a UK based photographer, not only asks strangers to pose for a portrait but also asks to reveal their deepest wish. Find out how he does it!

Taylor, who is currently residing in England but born and raised in Los Angeles, was introduced to the love of social photography through his father, who'd create beautiful portraits of him and his brother. Starting young, Taylor used money gifted to him and purchased his first camera, a Polaroid, on his 8th birthday which he then took on a vacation to Mexico. The trip was life changing for Taylor and his passion for all things photography was deeply rooted within him. Further on, life took Taylor to study business and cinematography, presently he is studying for a Masters degree in photography, while teaching at the renowned photography school at Nottingham Trent University and conducting private workshops throughout the UK.

The street photography portrait project arose as a part of Taylor's degree but also through his personal need of seeking more personal connections with people around him. Breaking away from the comfort of family and friends, Taylor sought to throw himself in the deep end and simply start building rapport with strangers, pushing himself not just as a photographer but also as a person. Observing the vast majority of people being glued to their mobile phones while out in coffee shops with their friends or family, Taylor knew he has to do something to break away from the currently present disconnection many of us seem to have with people all around us.

His project, "Strangers of Nottingham", was the ideal escape into the real world where people still talk to each other, and where photography has connection to the masters of portraiture who inspired Taylor through this journey, such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, and Herb Ritts. The essence of the project is documenting the wonderfully diverse society around us and asking strangers to leave Taylor with their one deepest wish, which he then documents and adds next to each and every stranger's portrait on the project's website.

The project has taken Taylor all over the world and he's built new personal and business contacts, which is inspiring for those who are unsure on whether to take on a personal photography project or not. Not just that, it's also eye opening and allows one to engage with people from all walks of life that they may otherwise never meet.

For those curious about what kind of equipment Taylor uses, it's a Canon 5D Mark IV combined with a Sigma 50mm Art lens. Although equipment to Taylor is somewhat irrelevant because it is the unique connection he builds with the strangers that creates an engaging photo, he is planning on selling this lens and camera combination and moving across to Fuji camp with the new medium format Fujifilm GFX-50R which will be paired up with the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR lens. 

The goal is to reach 300 portraits before planning an exhibition and fine art book of the project, with the proceeds of it all going to the "Save the Children" charity. With the current progress of around 200 strangers, Taylor is still going strong and doesn't intend to stop. It's not surprising since so far nine out of ten strangers have let Taylor take their portrait, and those who declined the opportunity, have done so politely. Often asked how does Taylor have the confident to approach strangers, he explains that his way of working is quite simple, "I let my two eyes guide me.  When I’m out, I’m always looking at people. Looking for that certain person." Whether it is their personality or their choice of clothing, there's always someone that will stand out. 

The last part of the project is one that's even more so personal than taking a portrait. A naturally curious person, Taylor lets his strangers reveal to him what they currently wish in life. Most answers concern peace, health and happiness, instead of money or material possessions which is quite refreshing to know!

If you'd like to follow Taylor's project, view "Strangers of Nottingham" Instagram page where you can read more about every stranger who has been photographed or visit Taylor's personal Instagram page to learn more about his work.

Lead image used with permission by Jake Taylor.

Anete Lusina's picture

Anete Lusina is a photographer based in West Yorkshire, UK. You'll either find her shooting weddings, documentary, or street photography across the U.K. and Europe, or perhaps doing the occasional conceptual shoot.

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The question is "how ethical it is to disturb people by asking such a personal question and then make their wishes go public by posting their answers on Instagram?". Yes, as a photographer you can achieve great results by asking personal questions but you are also responsible for how a person feels when you leave them. If a question would make a person feel sad or disturbed, and you leave them in this state of mind having great photos as a result - how ethical is it? Do you care about what and how people feel, or do you just care about achieving results (creating photos you want to create)?

True but following that philosophy, maybe you should never talk to anyone in any circumstances. In the last year, I remember reading an article wherein the author, a woman, advised other women to not happily announce their pregnancy or birth of their child because some women (the author) couldn't have children and it made them sad.
Life is full of these kinds of risks but the payoff outweighs them by a wide margin.

It is not about risks of life. It's more about being respectful about other people feelings. I specialise in portraits and have to talk a lot with a person I take photos of. One of the things I focus on is making sure I leave them in a positive state of mind, and only touch positive subjects.

P.S. If you know, for example, that a person cannot have children, would you keep talking about children during the photo shoot? Probably not. No matter what payoff is, it is just disrespectful and would hurt another person.

Absolutely agree but, in this case, the photographer doesn't know their state of mind. I'm not sure I would lead off with, "If you could have anything..." but the article doesn't really say if he goes right there. Honestly, it would never occur to me to ask that question.

Hi Yan, I appreciate the comment but everyone I photograph is made aware that their photograph and wish will be published on Instagram. If they don't want me to post it, I don't post it. Have a great day and keep shooting!

Appreciate your reply, and your approach. I am just concerned that some photographers only care about achieving results (good photos) and don't care about people feelings, in particular when touching a personal subject while shooting and leaving a person in a not-so-positive state of mind when photo shoot is done. Have a great day. Thank you for sharing your approach.

Yan, if producing good or great photographs depended mostly on "positivity" we might all be making baby and cat videos. Crash, great job becoming intimate with your subjects, human beings. Breaking through the mostly superficial veneer we are presented with every day in every medium, and especially on IG, should be really important to any serious photographer. Crash, I'm already a FAN. Keep it up!

Agreed. However, in order to produce good images there is no need to make people feel bad. There is a reportage photography, for example, where you can shoot discreetly without disturbing people.

It is 100 % ethical to talk to people, and take and publish the photos with their permission. It is 100% ethical to interact and create together. It's getting crazy these days, people care about feelings to much. What is wrong if someone says "I wish my friends to be happy?" Who's feelings is going to hurt?

I am happy to see these photos, thank you Crash Taylor and people you photographed for for making my day!

Thanks Var!

Sorry, I feel your reply sounds overly defensive and not to the point at all. You may consider reading my comment again. I never questioned or said that talking to people is not ethical.

There was a programme on BBC radio recently where the radio journalist would stop people. and say "I am from the BBC would you mind telling mere where you are going?" Most people seemed to be happy to say so. I have found as long as you approach people with full courtesy they will more often than not be happy to oblige. I don't call myself a street photographer but if I see a person who I think would make a great portrait I sometimes ask. I don't usually publish them unless I have permission but always email a copy if they want one.One gentleman not long ago said "you have made my day". He was a 70+ motor cyclist in full leathers etc.I probably do more portrait photography than anything else but I don't put them on fstoppers out of respect for privacy.I do not use instagram either.Good article.

"I'm from the BBC..." is probably a major ice breaker, LOL.

Reminds me of Humans of New York. Street photographer going around, bugging people with personal questions, and publishing their portraits along with meaningful lines. I think he actually published a book.

Nice posed portraits. I thought the point of street photography was candid shots.

Humans of New York - "What Do You Wish for" Edition

Seems like a spinoff of Humans of New York.