Week 14 - Create eye contact to connect your viewer with your subject

The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I photographed Dara as she was listening to the drums in Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC. This was part of my 100 Strangers Project.Creating eye contact is one of the easiest ways to connect with someone. Psychologists tell us that we are drawn to each other's eyes because that is how we assess how you are feeling, read your mood, or even tell if you are paying attention. 

Stephen Janik and Rodney Wellens took it a step further. They conducted a study at the University of Miami in Florida and found that 43.4 percent of the attention we focus on someone is devoted to the eyes.

It should be no surprise that we can create a connection between our viewers and subject through eye contact.  

In this photo, when my subject looks away, we naturally assume his attention is elsewhere. We observe him connecting with something else. We might even wonder where he is looking or what's on his mind. I'm curious but not connected.

Another of my 100 Strangers Project subjects. He was just relaxing in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC. 

Have him make eye contact, and we have a very different level of engagement. Now I get to search his eyes and make some inferences about him. Are you a little more curious about who he is when you look into his eyes? I know I am.

In my first shot, I snuck one as he looked away. When he turned my way, I got him to pose.

When someone makes eye contact, you are usually taking a portrait or posing the subject, however it is possible to have eye contact from someone by accident. Know that when you do, your viewer will almost always focus on the eyes first. 

When your someone looks into your camera, that person usually becomes the focal point. We form a bond and want an introduction. After all, we have a connection.


The Challenge

Introduce me to someone. Take a photograph where your subject creates eye contact with us. See how easy that makes it to connect.


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Note: In my Dupont Circle Street Photography workshop, we have fun photographing people and telling their stories. I like to say that we begin in full paparazzi mode, photographing people from a distance. By the end of the workshop, we are taking street portraits of strangers where they look right into our frames and become our friends. You can do it on your own with the 100 Strangers project. It's a fun way to practice this assignment.