“New Zealand Street Portrait” by James Stonley

I live in a small rural village just out of Christchurch City in New Zealand and can often be found people watching looking for interesting faces to photograph.

Recently I noticed TK slowly crossing the road with his head bowed low and shoulder length hair covering his face. I was intrigued and wanted to know more of his story, so I quickly headed to my car to get my camera and walked along side him introducing myself. I did what I sometimes do when I meet people on the streets and asked if he needed anything from the shops. It’s a good way of striking up a conversation. TK was taken back in surprise so I headed to a nearby restaurant and ordered two pizzas before returning.

TK and I sat on the street talking about life, art and sharing a little of each others stories. After showing TK some of my street portraits he kindly asked me if I wanted to capture his. I’ve taken over 100 street portraits over the years and each portrait is a celebration of that individual. I captured TK’s portrait because his face really tells a story and I wanted to share this with the world.

I captured a handful of images of TK but initially decided not to share any of them on social media because I felt that none of the images had reached my usual high standards. However I was still captivated by his face so I after some time staring at my computer I settled on this image and decided to share it. I’m thankful that I did because people engaged well with it. It was a valuable reminder that even our least favourite work can still speak to others and to share it anyway. It’s often not up to us to decide if an images is good or not.

What are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

Street portraits for me should grab your attention and make you stop and consider a person’s story, stripping away any prejudices or preconceived ideas about a person. I’d like to think my photograph does that. I also love the raw intimacy of the portrait and how you can only see one eye adding a sense of mystery or intrigue. I hope my portrait makes you think a little deeper about TK’s life and story.

If you could make this photo again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

Unfortunately this portrait was captured at the end of the day when the light had faded. I’d loved to have captured this photograph earlier in the day when the light was more dramatic. When you have good light you can shape it allowing it to highlighting all the unique facial features. Good light not only allows you create more dramatic and engaging portraits but it’s allows the portrait to take on a life of it’s own enhancing the subjects story.

James Stonley shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


James Stonley, Christchurch, New Zealand


Equipment and settings

I shot this portrait with a Nikon Z6ii Mirrorless camera and a Sigma Art 35mm lens.
My f-stop was 4.5 with an exposure of 1/640 and an ISO of 1250 to compensate for the fading light.

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Comments (1):

  1. Nazmul Bashar

    March 30, 2024 at 05:37

    NZ Street Portrait : James Stonley’s dialogue is a warm narrative of a photographer which is sweet. Conversations are simple, and fathomable by a person like me. TK’s eye in James’s portraiture is sharp and clear. Certainly, TK came alive in this portrait.


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