BI: What’s the protocol for taking pictures of locals? Do you have to ask them for permission? Isn’t it super awkward?
WT: It’s super, super awkward for introverts and extroverts alike. It depends on what you want out of it. If you want the natural environment, just shoot from the hip. Some people are firm believers in not not asking for permission, which, ethically, will always be an argument, but I take portraits of strangers and I ask them for permission. My style is that I want them to be engaged. I’m always one to ask for permission, that’s my opinion, but then some people say to ask permission is to seek denial, and you will get some noes. Some photographers shoot without permission because that’s what they want, but other photographers shoot without permission because they’re afraid to ask.
BI: How do you get the inside scoop on where to go and what to see off the beaten path? Not the touristy stuff.
WT: Asking a local, 100%. And you almost have to ask them three times. If someone came up to me in New York City, I might send them to the Empire State. But if you push me a little further, I’ll say go up to the Rockefeller Observatory so you can get a shot with the Empire State. But if you ask me a third time I might give you a speakeasy in the West Village. And that’s what you want. You have to not only ask a local, but show them that you’re serious about the off the beaten path thing, because people don’t easily give up their secrets. The more you give the more you get, I guess.
BI: Is using an iPhone a no-no?
WT: I’m pro iPhone. The quality of iPhones keeps getting better and better. I might get in trouble in the photography community for this one, but so many people think it’s about the body of the camera, but it’s actually about the lens. So use whatever you want, but get a good lens.