You have to be pretty strange to photograph strangers by Amanda Liew

One of the other categories for our Portrait assignment is photographing strangers. It could be a friend of a friend, someone you see on the street, someone you ask to photograph, etc. This was by far the MOST awkward assignment yet. First off, it's pretty obvious when you're taking a photograph of someone when you're holding an enormous DSLR camera. I got a range of reactions from people, and it was really interesting how my role changed so much just because I was holding a camera. My favorite image was also the most interesting story. I had just set out to walk around on the streets surrounding campus and didn't have a clue what I was going to do. I didn't even have my camera up ready for photos, it was just hanging around my neck when all of a sudden the man below started throwing funny poses at me. I started laughing and said, "Well sure!" and grabbed a few pictures. Interestingly enough, when I actually brought the camera to my face, he posed much more serenely. But somehow his wide-leg-stance, his gaze, his barely there smile, and everything about him sends such waves of confidence (in a good way). I was so upset later on that in the spur of the moment, I cut off his other foot. I was thinking of cropping/zooming in more in post-production so that both of his feet weren't in the shot, but somehow that took away from the power of it all. Hilariously enough, he said, "Well let me take a photo of you!" and whipped out his camera phone. Of course, my first reaction was total panic/uhh this is creepy, but then I recognized how that was pretty hypocritical of me considering I just took a photo of HIM! So I threw a few funny poses back at him, and then he said, "Let me take a video!" That got a little weird hahah. We then introduced ourselves to one another, and he asked if he could get my number to take me out to dinner. I politely declined with a thank you, and we went our own ways! What an experience


These are the fruit cart owners on the corner of 34th & Walnut. I asked them if I could take their photograph, to which they said yes, but did not move or smile. It was interesting how many people I asked would say yes and go right back to what they were doing (reading a book, looking at their phone, etc.).


On the other hand, many people were much more willing to smile and pose for me. I love the lighting of the photo and the way it hits both of their hair! 

_DSC0037 (1)

This guy was extremely surprised that I wanted a photo of him! He thought it was hilarious and very different, but he kindly let me take his photo as well! I think in this photo he actually wasn't posing for the camera, it was more of a smile and a laugh that I was taking his photo while looking up at the same time. I love it!

_DSC0040 (1)

I tried to also take some photos of strangers while I was in the Dominican Republic, but this actually made me feel very conflicted. The area that we were in was impoverished, and I felt extremely uncomfortable coming in as a tourist staying at a resort with my fancy shmancy camera taking pictures of people who did not have as much as me. I wanted to explain, "It's for a class! I'm taking pictures of strangers in general! I'm not taking a picture of you because I think X or see you as Y," but of course I couldn't. It really made me think about the role of a photographer, and the implications that goes along with holding a camera. I felt awkward taking pictures of people in Philly and on campus, but somehow it felt wrong in the DR. So wrong, in fact, that I only took 3 or 4 photos of strangers before I stopped. Then, there's the question - is it wrong to be acting differently in the DR compared to back home? Is putting my camera away pointing to an incorrect attitude I have? Am I trying to be politically correct? Am I being respectful? Honestly, I don't know! I just know that I felt very conflicted.

This photograph is powerful to me, but it might be because of the experience behind it. Her gaze and expression pierces me - it makes me question what she's thinking about me and my camera, throwing back everything I feel.


What are your thoughts on photographing strangers? I was surprised by the wide array of responses that I got from everyone!

Sometimes you have to join a movement by Amanda Liew

Image Yesterday was my birthday. It was wonderful and joyous, and I'll hopefully get a chance to write about it later. But one thing that really stuck out to me was my conversation in the morning with Natalie Franke. She was telling me that she got a letter from a stranger this past week, and it was exactly what she needed at the moment. By the time she was done reading it, she was moved so deeply and touched in every way. She told me the letter was from this girl who would write hundreds of love letters to strangers, leaving them in random mailboxes or slipping them into people's jackets on the subway. I couldn't get the idea out of my head. So after finding the link in Natalie's post, I found Hannah Brencher who started it all. I did even more clicking, and found out this was an entire movement called The World Needs More Love Letters. The entire idea is to mobilize people to just write letters - beautiful, beautiful love letters - to total and complete strangers. As I read through the site more and more, I was touched and mesmerized. Each letter I read was somehow so unique and personal and relatable to me. Since I often view my birthday as my own form of a "New Years" (full of changes and usually better followed resolutions), I felt called. The timing was too perfect! I have always had a deep love for hand written letters, and here I was, feeling abnormally joyous. Why shouldn't I share that love with others?

So I decided to write 22 letters for my 22 years of age.

Then I realized it was 1 AM, and that was a litttttle ambitious for me. So I settled on starting off with 3 for the month of March. Once my pen hit the paper, I couldn't stop. Somehow, I began writing to myself. I wrote the letters as what I needed to hear at my lowest points - those moments of confusion, self doubt, and utter loneliness. Those moments where I felt like nothing was going right, and I was barely keeping my head above water. I wrote them to myself and to someone else at the same time. I realized how universal some of these feelings were, but at the same time I felt that this was meant for a specific person in the world. Some might view it as fate or destiny, but I feel strongly that God is playing a role in this too. I haven't even decided where I want to place the cards yet, but I think I'll know when I see it.

Sometimes you have to join a movement when it's calling your name.

To learn more, check out!