Back in November I published my first “Inspiration from strangers” post showcasing street portrait photographers that inspire my own work. It features ten street photographers I hugely respect, with established bodies of works in the many tens to many hundreds of stranger portraits. Yet there was one photographer missing.
Carlo Sa is the exception. Away from Flickr for a while it took a little longer to get his positive response to my request to show his work. There are just seven images in his 100 Strangers portfolio on Flickr. They’re not neatly ordered in a set. Nor are they posted in order. Portrait 06 is missing, in fact. There are elements that some would challenge on technical grounds. And I’m totally in love with them.
What they have is that urgent spark of visceral presence that so many – myself certainly included – over-process or over-think or otherwise suffocate. Portait 04 (above) was the first I came to. I love the bright, glossy reflection in his glasses. The weird, at once ultra-real and yet somehow fantasy play of light, especially the odd rim light on his right cheek.
There’s the same feel of a sticky urban Californian night, and the same polluted wash of light in 03 (above). The same frisson of human contact. Portrait 02 (below) is a little more contrived, with more front, but the same fierce, dirty, real world lighting.
They’re risky portraits for me and packed with lessons I’m still working through for a future post, wanting to keep the focus here on Carlo’s work. In our email exchange Carlo noted a number of other portraits for his project and I can’t wait to see them. There’s a raw authenticity to them which I struggle to define, but know I don’t see elsewhere.
It’s a real skill balancing that sense of real life and intimacy. I really admire the details Carlo leaves in, and his use of found and borrowed light. The well judged elements of imperfection perfectly catch that random blaze of half met, half missed glances, the brief confrontations and flirtations, the energy of urban life, but hit with a little cinematic supercharge that lifts it above.
All images copyright Carlo Sa (2014), used with permission.
One thought on “Inspiration from Strangers – Carlo Sa”
Agree with your evaluation of Carlo’s work, there is something very different about these images that I love yet can’t put my finger on and don’t think I’d be able to recreate but will certainly try.
Thanks for this post Matt, it’s given me some much needed inspiration!
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