Humanity Captured

© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen
© Helen Chen

Helen Chen captures people she encounters with her camera with a very personal and intimate touch. In her images we can feel the strong rapport and relationship she builds with her subjects. She makes people relax and she makes them act naturally in front of the camera. Anyone who has tried to photograph people – and haven’t we all on some level – know how difficult that can be. In her photos the people being photograph give of themselves; her photos offer a glimpse into their spirit and character. We see them as human beings with a heart and a soul – and we see Helen in that relationship built between her and her subjects. Her photos are straightforward and without any hocus pocus – which is also their strength. They shine solely because of Helen’s strong connection with the subjects and because her subjects let her capture their humanity. In this interaction between photographer and photographed, Helen gives just as much as they do, of more precisely; they give because she does. The photos shown here is part of the personal project Helen Chen did for the eWorkshop «Finding Your Personal Voice» she attended last spring. For more of Helen’s work, go to her HHC Blog.

58 thoughts on “Humanity Captured

  1. Helen is so shy about her photographs, Otto. I am so happy to see you highlight the specialness that is Helen and her photography. You do bring out everyone’s talent amazingly.

      1. It’s not a “if”, you have already done it. I am not saying I have talent; I am saying I consider I am a photographer and I didn’t know I could be one before taking the workshop 😉

  2. A marvellous variety of images which have deftly captured these very different individuals. Thanks for showcasing these, and I hope Helen feels more confident about her photography!

  3. When I am intrigued by a person , I want to get to know them better. I find that these photos have the same affect on me. Agree that black and white is suitable and think that Helen has a knack for putting people at ease.

  4. Thank you, Otto. I am smiling… 😉
    I have learned a lot from your workshop. Form, color… to name a few. I particularly appreciate how you patiently guided us to find our photographing voice. To be honest, I thought that was an impossible task (in my case) since I knew so little about the subject. I’m so glad that I took the workshop.
    I do have a comment though… it is a long way between finding-our-photographing-voice and going-to-Cuba, don’t you think so? Maybe add another workshop? 😉

    1. It’s a tricky question to answer, because I don’t want to sound like a salesperson. Literally – in terms of distance and if you don’t live in Florida, yes it’s a long way. But photographically, absolutely not. I think you would enjoy and have much to gain by participating in our Cuba workshop – or any other workshop for that matter. As to the impossible task, of course not, anyone willing to work and get engaged in developing his or her photographic sensitivity will always experience great photographic development. 🙂

      1. I meant photographically… I feel that there is still a lot to learn before I would be ready for a workshop like the Cuba workshop. Maybe if I work hard, I will be ready someday. Thank you!

  5. those are great portraits! so unassuming yet powerful, and yes, they seem to capture the peoples’ spirits (remember how natives thought photographs stole your spirit?)

    my husband used to tell me never ever to take pictures of people coz i sucked at it, then when i decided i was going to be a bad photographer (instead of a good one lol) i started taking a lot of people pics…. mostly of my husband

    i had my revenge haha

    1. You approach is very unconventional, I would say, but I think it works very well for you. Having decided to become a bad photographer probably made you relax with the photographic process, lose any pretensions and pressure, thus, resulting instead in very interesting and personal photographs.

  6. Good morning Otto, yesterday I went to see the documentary film “Finding Vivian Maier” and was deeply impressed by her fotos. I think she was very capable, as you write here of Helen Chen,of offering with her pictures a glimpse into peoples spirit and character. Thank you all for your excellent work.:)

  7. I very much enjoyed browsing Helen’s blog, and I’m looking forward to her new project. Thanks for the introduction. The variety in the portraits you show here is quite wonderful. These are not The Beautiful People, in the sense used by marketers or merchandisers, but real people, beautiful because of an apparent strong sense of self. Being able to capture that is a real gift.

  8. Very portraits ‘Nature’ – do not ask any questions and shoter …. the result is great and especially in black and white !! Have a nice week

  9. These portraits reveal so much about the photographer as well as the subjects – and they naturally induce a smile from the viewer.

  10. Each portrait seems to unveil a layer or more of the individual. I especially like that she uses monochrome, which helps the viewer focus on her subjects. Really enjoyed her captures and perspectives.

  11. These are splendid, insightful portraits. The importance of building rapport with the subject is one reason I do very, very few portraits. When I have that rapport, I do good work. But I want to avoid cold, soulless portrayals and thus avoid situations where this is likely to happen, and i rather loathe the trend these days to arrange the person as one element in a larger picture — sometimes even just as part of a pattern, sometimes even without showing any of their face — and call the result a “portrait.” IMO anyway, that’s pushing the boundaries of the definition of the word “portrait” beyond where it deserves to go. (Of course, I’m not referring here to the “environmental portrait” that shows the person in the context of something important to them, such as their occupation or hobby.) No, “portraits” need more of Helen’s type of work.

    1. That was quite a dedicated comment, Nancy. I see you point, although I tend to enjoy a wider definition of “portrait”. For me that is anything that shows the character of a person in some way. But I agree, Helen’s work is an outstanding example of excellent portraits.

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