PRO PORTRAIT: Photographer Benjamin Heath Gets Close to People.

Benjamin Heath started taking pictures of people and things at a distance—a comfortable distance. Growing up in a small town north of Indianapolis, Benjamin spent a lot of time inside his head—“I remember spending a lot of time pretending I was somewhere else.”

Then, after moving to San Francisco, he needed some time to adjust to the City—and its people, up close.

“Coming from a small, quiet, middle-American town with a homogenous population – you could say I was a bit in culture shock,” remembers Benjamin, “But I embraced it. I wanted to be inside that feeling of discomfort because I felt I learned from it. I really think you have to make yourself uncomfortable to learn something new and worthwhile.”

Over time he started getting closer and closer to the subjects of his street photography. It was then he started talking to people— Who are you? Where are from? How did you get here? “Everyone had a story much different and, in my opinion, cooler than mine,” he says. As he met more and more people—different than himself, he discovered he wanted to learn about people and their differences. “In a way it opened the world up to me and taught me a lot about myself.” He felt different when he was holding his camera and he became addicted to that “different” feeling.

Today Benjamin enjoys wandering San Francisco with his camera with a much more purposeful approach. “When I am shooting for my portfolio I know what kind of photo I want to make,” he says, “I look to my photographic heroes a lot. The longer I am in San Francisco the harder it is to feel uncomfortable just by being here. I have to work harder to experience that feeling. But it’s worth it. I hope I will be photographing forever.”

When he is shooting, Benjamin says he walks around and talks to strangers and takes their portrait or sometimes he’ll take a surreptitious photo of people doing something that is interesting to him in some way.

“Maybe I am trying to connect to the world around me,” as he considers the purpose of his work, “The way we interact with one another, even in the slightest, subtle ways is fascinating. If you go to an area where a lot of people are moving about and slow down time with your eyes, just really make everyone move in slow motion, you can see all sorts of moments. Each person, from their own individual existence, exploding into another person for a fraction of a second before they each bounce away from that moment forever. There are little supernovas of human interaction happening all the time. I want to see them with my camera.”

And because Benjamin sees, and captures those people and places, we get to see the world through his eyes.

Benjamin Heath

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