My initial goal was 40. 40 street portraits in a day. I didn't quite get that many, but it was still a great day of meeting strangers, hearing stories and taking portraits.
Whereas most street photography is candid, a street portrait involves interaction. An introduction, an explanation, a request for a photograph. I like to give business cards, or at least my website or email, so anyone can contact me to send them the image. Other than that, my approach is really just being friendly, honest and being happy to accept that a few people are likely to decline, which of course is no problem at all.
So why 40? I like round numbers and it seemed achievable. And 50 is too mixed up with 'Shades of Grey' connotations.
I do have a couple of other general rules in terms of who I will or won't approach. I generally won't ask a single adult who is with their kids. I'm not out to take family shots, and I can't expect a parent to ignore their child to pose for a photo. I generally won't approach anyone wearing earphones either. I read that as a 'do not disturb' sign, although I did wait for one person to finish a phone call then spoke to them.
I had a few locations in mind, all within the square mile of Hoboken, and it's amazing how quickly the mind starts making excuses for not approaching people. "I wasn't planning to photograph here", "they might not want to stop", "they look intimidating". It takes a little time for me to get past those mostly illogical fears and after a few good conversations it becomes much easier.
Pick the right people, who aren't in a rush, explain yourself clearly and offer them the opportunity to be involved in your project. It's hardly imposing, you're not selling anything and for most people it's something new that they're interested to be part of.
I met a train driver and construction worker, retired sisters and hotdog salesmen, a photographer, musician and yoga teacher. Sometimes we talked for a while, sometimes just for a few minutes. Many got in touch afterwards to see the photos.
It was a pleasure to meet so many friendly and fascinating new people. I feel like I've got to know my adopted home that little bit better.
You can see all the images here.