Taking Portraits of Strangers (feat. Gabrielle Motola)

Are you someone who loves photography and desires to capture the raw emotions of people’s lives? Have you ever considered taking portraits of strangers, but feel hesitant about approaching them? Fear no more! In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of portrait photography featuring the talented Gabrielle Motola. With years of experience in capturing the essence of strangers, Gabrielle will guide us through the art of building connections with people we have just met, and how to transform them into stunning subjects for our photographs. Get ready to step out of your comfort zone and embark on an exciting journey of capturing the beauty of strangers!

Taking Portraits of Strangers (feat. Gabrielle Motola)


I recently discovered a book called “The North American Indians” by Edward S. Curtis, and it captivated me instantly. The book showcases the incredible and extensive work Curtis did in the late 1800s, documenting Native American tribes. As a portrait photographer myself, I realized the significance of capturing the essence of people and their cultures. Inspired by Curtis, I wanted to explore the idea of taking portraits of strangers. In this article, we will delve into this concept with the help of Gabrielle Motola, a talented photographer who specializes in capturing portraits of people she encounters during her travels.

Gabrielle Motola’s Journey

Gabrielle Motola, a brilliant photographer, discovered her passion for photography during a trip to France when she was just eighteen. The experience of photographing the stunning architecture, landscapes, and people ignited her love for the art form. She vividly remembers the excitement of developing her first rolls of film and watching the memories come to life in the darkroom. This personal and intimate process convinced her that she didn’t need a whole crew to create meaningful photographs. She could do it on her own.

After being inspired by Annie Leibovitz’s documentary work, Gabrielle decided to intern at Leibovitz’s studio in New York. This marked the beginning of her journey in the commercial photography industry. She gained valuable experience and learned the importance of capturing authentic moments.

Embracing the Unknown

Gabrielle’s early photography work involved photographing her friends and musicians. However, capturing portraits of unfamiliar faces was a challenge for her. It wasn’t until she started exploring an area called Broadway Market that she began to photograph strangers. The diverse individuals she encountered fascinated her, and she wanted to capture their unique stories through her lens.

Setting up her camera on the street, Gabrielle would approach passersby and ask them if she could take their photograph. Through this process, she aimed to capture the changing face of the community as it underwent gentrification and welcomed new residents. At first, it was tough for her to photograph people she didn’t know, but she pushed herself to overcome her fears and capture the essence of the strangers she encountered.

The Intention Behind Each Portrait

According to Gabrielle, the first step in photographing strangers is to establish a clear intention. Before approaching someone, she reflects on why she wants to capture that person’s portrait. By understanding her motivation, she can connect with the subject on a deeper level and convey their story through her photographs.

Each portrait becomes an opportunity to document and preserve the individual’s unique experiences, allowing viewers to glimpse their daily lives and the communities they belong to.


Taking portraits of strangers is a challenging yet fulfilling endeavor. Inspired by the work of Edward S. Curtis, photographers like Gabrielle Motola are driven to capture the essence of people and cultures. Through their artistic vision, they help preserve and celebrate the stories of individuals who may otherwise remain undiscovered. By overcoming our fears and establishing a clear intention, we too can venture into the world of portrait photography, connecting with strangers and capturing their stories to create powerful and evocative photographs.

FAQ – Taking Portraits of Strangers

Frequently Asked Questions – Taking Portraits of Strangers (feat. Gabrielle Motola)

Q: Can I legally take portraits of strangers without their consent?

A: The laws regarding photography and consent may vary depending on your location. It is always best to familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations before taking portraits of anyone, especially strangers. In some cases, verbal or written consent may be required. It is also important to respect people’s privacy and cultural sensitivities.

Q: How can I approach strangers to take their portraits?

A: Approaching strangers can be intimidating, but there are a few tips that can help. Firstly, always be polite and respectful. Approach the person with a friendly demeanor and explain your intention to capture their portrait. It is important to convey your genuine interest in their unique attributes or the story they might have. Additionally, having a portfolio or examples of your work can help build trust in your skills and intentions.

Q: What are some strategies for making strangers feel comfortable during a photo shoot?

A: To make strangers feel more comfortable, communication is key. Engage in conversation to establish a connection and allow them to relax before starting the photo shoot. Explain your creative vision and let them know what you hope to capture. Always be flexible and open to their suggestions or preferences. Respect their boundaries and do not push them into poses or settings they are uncomfortable with.

Q: What can I do to ensure the safety of both myself and the strangers I photograph?

A: Safety is a top priority when taking portraits of strangers. Choose well-populated and public areas for your photo shoots to minimize any risks. It is also advisable to bring a friend along if possible. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and trust your instincts. If someone expresses discomfort or explicitly asks you to stop taking their photos, respect their wishes immediately.

Q: How can I make my portraits of strangers stand out?

A: To create compelling portraits of strangers, focus on capturing their unique qualities and personalities. Use creative composition techniques, experiment with lighting, and pay attention to interesting backgrounds. Engage with the people you photograph, ask them about their lives, interests, or personal stories, so you can infuse more depth and emotion into the portraits. Ultimately, it is your artistic vision and creativity that will make your portraits stand out.

I hope you find useful my article Taking Portraits of Strangers (feat. Gabrielle Motola), I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

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