How 6 Minutes and a Street Photograph Touched a Life

Australian photographer Liam McHenry tells the inspiring story of an encounter he had with a confrontational teenager when doing street photography. What started out as a situation spiraling out of control instantly changed when his subject suddenly “understood” his photography. McHenry says that the big revelation he had through the experience was: “it’s never just a photo.”

(via L7px via Eric Kim)

  • Anonymous

    Not inspired here, just annoyed.
    The sense of entitlement here is bewildering. The fact that it took McHenry so long to offer his card, a view of the photograph taken and explain the context before the kid had “his epiphany” should remind him that he’s not just a collector and that he has responsibilities to the subjects of his photographs.

    If he had anything about him he’d be teaching the kid how to take and control his own image.

  • Melo

    Well Mr Rocking… you’re not seeing it the same way as I.  It’s a nice story.  The photographer handled it well and his point of taking time to get to know your subject is the most important element here.

  • Black_widow

    MrRocking you are a poor sap no to get inspired here. I pity you.

  • Daver

    Wow, what a long winded story about a crappy story. 

  • Daver

    Whoops, meant to say crappy photo, not crappy story. It was a lame story. 

  • Gran

    getting to know your subject only after you’ve pissed them off enough to follow you is really inspiring.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    The story sounded fake. I can believe the first part, but as he continued it sounded more like how he’d liked it to unfold.

  • Liam McHenry

    Well, the story actually happened like I recorded it. And I would like to offer a response to some of the stuff raised here as it is valid, if not incorrect.

    I admitted up front that I was in the wrong by antagonising the boy – no doubt. The reason for that was that as he saw the camera, his first words were 

    “you f****ing c*** you take my f***ing picture and I’ll f***ing come and kill you and your b**** and your kids..” So, yes, I acted wrongly and I did apologise to him for it. 

    As for the business card – the delay was simply due to him not taking a break in his cursing in front of my 1 !/2 year old or my wife for me to offer it. However, before he left me from the first interaction, he had been offered the card twice – which he refused to take. I offered from the get go every opportunity to view the shots.

    And as for getting to know your subject after the shot…well, I don’t seek permission to shoot prior as that leads to a staged shot. But I always try and engage people in conversation after the fact. I find it a great way to just get to chat with people.

    And a long winded story about a crappy photo – what I didn’t get to put in there was that I don’t believe the shot is a particularly great shot. What I feel is the important part is that this kid felt valued, and important as a result. Watching the change in this kid as someone finally took an interest in him was a good thing to see.

    What isn’t plain from any of it is that my local area is massively disadvantaged and recognised by our government as an area of high need. These people have multi generational issues related to abuse of power over them, drug alcohol abuse, crime, financial discrimination, educational disadvantage. So yes, for Joe Average to not call the police on this kid was a big deal. A huge deal for him.

    I have printed the photo out and am actively seeking to get it to him, as a way of taking an interest in this kids life beyond a single photo.

    What amazes me, and I guess highlights a lot, is that in the face of this, I either am making this up, have taken a crappy shot or have not behaved in a way people may agree with. Yet my focus from beginning to end was always the subject…the kid.

    Thanks for the feedback though, I appreciate your thoughts on it. The experience did impact me a lot and I hope you get something from it too. Happy shooting…

    Liam McHenry

  • Mandingo

    It would have been funnier if, after you’d won his confidence, you punched him in the nose and took a photo of that.

  • Liam McHenry

    @Mandingo – Now THAT would have been a great photo!!

  • Through Painted Eyes

    I think there’s something to that. No doubt it would land you in jail, but the series would be original and compelling.

  • Richard Ford

    A story which is via and via?  Can I get a via too and get in on the basking in the derived glory of others too?

  • Daniel Austin Hoherd

    It will be awesome when I see this story come through here again as via Petapixel via Richard Ford via L7px via Eric Kim.

  • Diva

    So now the punk knows where he lives. I look forward to the follow-up story, when Mr. McHenry comes home to find his expensive camera equipment missing. I hope I’m wrong…

  • Anonymous

    I’m not that silly Diva! My address is not on my business cards….but we have chosen to move into this neighborhood for reasons beyond taking photos, so that’s a risk we balance with very comprehensive nsurance coverage.

    And I believe the kid means me no harm at this stage….but I’ll let you know if that changes! :)

  • Jameshail2011

    No, I disagree – Mr McHenry handled this perfectly – he difused the aggressive and potentially dangerous side of the moment, calmly walked off, and if the subject then wanted to persue matters, it was up to him.
    Imagine if McHenry had approached this youth, amongst his friends, would it of had the same effect? The youth would be more stubborn, not wanting to ‘give up’ infront of his friends. He wouldn’t of been so touched, as he would be trying to keep the ‘hard’ image amongst his friends, and would probably end up VERY embarassed if he had become this quiet sole that he did with McHenry, amongst the others. This could of provoked even more anger and more problems!

    The fact he got a quiet moment with him, to make him truly reflect, and give him a chance to properly understand the moment, without the pressure of his friends around him was perfect!

  • 8fps

    “you f****ing c*** you take my f***ing picture and I’ll f***ing come and kill you and your b**** and your kids..” is a pretty correct statement – in my view.

  • Liam McHenry

    Wow, you’re a special kinda putrid there 8fps. A very special kind for sure…

  • Toby Hawkins

    You take a photo of someone, they object, you react by taking many more ‘to antagonise’ and ‘push his buttons’… Just because somethings not illegal doesn’t mean it’s acceptable! Liam McHenry comes off as the real child here.