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People of Copenhagen
Last year, I embarked upon a challenging personal project. A project to take street portraits of total strangers on the streets of Copenhagen. Armed with a camera I would roam around the streets of Copenhagen looking for interesting faces I could photograph. Everyone of the portraits I took, I made sure that I took their email addresses and emailed them a copy of the picture I took. In the process I made several new friends and overall it was a very liberating experience. The feeling of being able to hug a total stranger or shake hands as if I knew them for ages after a photograph - is indescribable. This is the power of a Photograph!
Andreas Joergensen - I met Andreas while walking on Falkoner Alle towards the Frederiksberg Centeret shopping center. I told him about the project and he happily obliged to be the first subject of this project.
I forgot to take her name while I was chatting with her. She was walking towards me in the opposite direction when I asked her if I could take her picture - after I explained to her about my project. She was pretty excited and took down the address of my blog. She asked me if I had a pen…brought a smile to my face - in this digital age, especially in a city like Copenhagen which is digitally so connected - the comment kind of sounded out of place. We quickly exchanged details - she took it down on her iPhone and we parted ways.
I met with Vincent while I was returning home. I saw him walking towards me - this nicely dressed smart gentleman and I immediately knew I had to take a picture of him. I approached him and mentioned about my project. Turns out Vincent is a student of art as well and he studies dancing in Copenhagen. We immediately connected with Art being our common connection. Vincent gracefully posed for me.
Ricko lives in Copenhagen. I caught up with him while he was walking back home after doing some grocery shopping. I explained to him about the project and he readily obliged for his picture to be taken!
Oliver lives in Frederiksberg, but is originally from Roskilde. We caught up pretty well in the 5 minutes we spent talking. I explained to Oliver about the project I was doing and he found it to be pretty interesting. We discussed about the places I visited in Copenhagen, he gave me ideas on what kind of people would I find where for my project. While I have to admit that most of the places I’ve visited are touristy places - if I had to really make this project worthwhile, I will have to also go to these other parts of the town as well. Oliver wants to visit India sometime; we exchanged email addresses and I promised to catch up with Oliver over beer someday!
I met Ingvard right behind the Fisketorvet mall. The family was busy shopping and I sneaked myself out to take a few portraits. I came out of the mall and walked towards the water-front. I crossed the bridge to the other side and was returning when I looked back over my shoulder and I saw this tall handsome man walking towards me. I immediately stopped him and asked if I could take a picture. Ingvard follows - “The humans of New York” project, and was happy for his shot to be taken. I took a couple of shots, took his email address, he wished me luck with the project and left!
I met this elderly gentleman outside a departmental store. As he was about to pass by my side, I stopped him and told him about my project. In a deep baritone he acknowledged my blabbering about the project and while I was doing that, lit a cigarette for himself. I asked him if I could take a picture of his and he looked at me with his deep blue eyes and said alright go ahead. I was delighted - I placed him where the light was right and took a frame. I walked up to him and showed him the frame - I acknowledged it with a smile and just walked away - even before I could take down his name.
I was at a traffic signal when I saw this lovely little lady walking towards me with a smile on her face and looking ahead in eagerness - probably she was going to meet someone, or maybe she was listening to music she really liked. I interrupted her walk and explained her about the project. Her smile grew bigger as I was talking and as soon as I asked if I could take her picture - she readily agreed. I took her picture and showed it to her - she liked it. We exchanged email addresses and she left with the same smile on her face walking briskly towards her destination. Her name is Ida.
I saw this lovely lady with a beautiful smile walking towards a restaurant. She was about to enter, when we made eye-contact. It was a split second decision for me whether or not to interrupt her. Ideally I wouldn’t interrupt people who are either talking on the phone, or are about to enter a restaurant / shop. But in that split second I heard myself interrupting her. She looked at me with her bright blue eyes. I explained her about the project  and she agreed for a picture. I showed it to her and she gave her acceptance for me to use it. I knew I had already taken a lot of her time; she was probably going to meet someone who was waiting for her. In the rush of things, I couldn’t take her name!
I met Emil on the street while I was walking along look for my next subject for the project. Emil travels a lot and likes to take pictures of people while he is traveling. He was in Burma over New Years and Christmas and most recently to California. He was excited to know about the project I was doing. I told him that it was an inspiration I took from the Humans of New York project and he wanted to know more. I took his email address with a promise to send him his photograph along with details of the Humans of NY project. We agreed to catchup over a beer before parting ways!
I keep saying this to myself; Copenhagen is a city where you’ll find some of the most beautiful people on bicycles. I saw Mette walking towards me with her bicycle by her side. Generally when people are on their bicycles they’re always in a hurry to get somewhere, but Mette was just walking with her bike on her side. I stopped her and explained about the project. I showed her the other portraits I had taken and she agreed to be a part of my project. I asked her to step towards an open area where there was this beautiful golden evening sunlight. She posed for the camera and while it was windy - holding back her watery eyes she gave a lovely smile - and a portrait was taken!
I met the vibrant & lovely Alberte while walking back home. I stopped her midway - she was listening to some nice music when I interrupted her. I told her about the project and showed her the portraits I had taken so far. She actually knew Ida (from one of my earlier portraits that I showed her); they study in the same school. I asked her to move towards the intersection and took a shot of hers. We didn’t like the first shot - so I asked her to be a little natural and strike another pose with a little smile - and this is what she came up with! We both liked the shot!
I saw Clara just park her bicycle and look intently at her phone screen - probably looking at something of interest. I was passing by when I decided to stop by and ask her permission for a picture. I explained the project to her and showed her some of the pictures I had taken of other people on the streets. She seemed interested, and was ready to pose. She wanted to know if I had any preferences with her posing. I asked her to relax and be natural while give a profile pose. I took a few shots, checked where the light was the best and took a couple more. This was the shot of her I liked the most. This also is the first full-length shot in my project - thanks to Clara’s lovely pose! I took her email address promising to send her her picture and bid good bye.
Thomas was walking towards me, when I stopped him and told him about the project. Thomas seemed interested and posed for a quick shot. I took his email address, promised to send him his picture and a link to the project blog.
I met this budding photographer while walking on the street. He actually was looking for a light for his cigarette. I don’t smoke, so I didn’t have a lighter, but I took this opportunity to talk to him about my project. He agreed for his portrait, and I took this shot. I took his email address, he wished me luck with my project and we parted ways.
I was in two minds whether I should put this picture up. I met this lady outside a flower shop. she was arranging flowers in the display stand when I walked up to her and explained about the project. She kept working and arranging her flowers as I was speaking with her. I asked her if I could take her picture. She said it was ok but didn’t want to pose for me. She said “You take a picture while I’m working, that will be natural. I’m too tired to pose and have a lot of work to do”. I waited till I got a good shot, but she just wouldn’t look at me. There was a moment, when she looked at me and said - haven’t you had enough, and I said I’ve not even gotten a single shot. She laughed - and that was it - I managed to take this shot. I couldn’t get her name - she was too busy and went inside to attend to customers after this. I finally decided to put up this picture, as I wanted to keep myself honest with the project. It was about portraits of people - people with their natural expressions!
Mathilde loves to travel. She has of late been traveling all over South America. She would love to travel to India some day and meet with people there! I told Mathilde about my project and she got interested. She readily posed for me and I took the shot. She wished me luck for the project, I took her email address and parted ways! Its nice to meet people who share the same love for travel as I do!
I saw this lovely family of a Dad and his two kids in the park on roller blades. I asked Mr. Bjorn if I could take a picture of his, after telling him about my project. He agreed, and then its struck me, my project is all about people - so why can’t it be about families. I told him I could include his kids as well. He asked kids if they would like their pictures taken. Both of them seemed excited and I asked them to pose for me. I took Mr Bjorn’s email address promising him to send him this family photograph. Another milestone - the first family portrait in my project!
Magnus and Gustav are brothers. They’ve had a great time the night before at the harbour. 3000 people listening and rocking to non-stop trance music with drinks flowing like water - that sure must’ve been some party they were at. I told them about the project and they readily agreed for a picture.
An absolute gem of a person with a radiant smile, Rebecca was returning after buying some candies when I bumped into her. I explained to her about the project and she got interested. I showed her the portraits I had taken earlier and she agreed to be a part of the project. When I asked her to pose, she did feel a little awkward at first, but I asked her to relax and just put up a nice smile for the shot. She came out with this beautiful smile and I took the shot. Rebecca was born in Copenhagen in an area called Vesterbro and she calls herself the “Typical Copenhagener”. She wants to be a teacher and has just concluded her masters in English language with special pedagogy in social sciences. I took her email address, exchanged pleasantries and left! A beautiful interaction for the evening - one which makes this project so worthwhile!
I met Mrs. Johnna, while I was walking the streets looking to shoot portraits. When I looked at her she had this beautiful warm smile that you’d typically get from a grandmother when you ask her for freshly baked cookies from the oven. I approached her and asked her for a picture. I was  half expecting that she would turn me down, but she gracefully accepted. I took a picture and showed it to her. She said she didn’t want to look at the picture, because she didn’t like to look at her pictures. But she did mention she was ok with the portrait I had taken of her. With a big warm smile, she said good bye. I wished her a pleasant evening and we parted ways…
Adrian was parking his bike when I approached him for a portrait and asked him if he would like to be a part of my project. He looked at the pictures I showed him of the portraits I had taken before and agreed for me to take a shot. I wanted to take a shot of him with his bike. Copenhagen is one of those cities which has “Bicycle highways”, and bicycles are one of the most commonly used modes of transport within cities. I took this shot, showed it to him, and he approved of it. I took his email address, exchanged pleasantries and parted ways.
I met Denis while he was waiting for someone. I walked up to him and explained about the project. I showed him a few pictures I had taken and he agreed to be a part of my project. He asked me what number was he amongst the portraits of the day. I told him he was number 3. He asked a very important question - “Do people say no”…I said Yes of course people do say no. its part of doing such a project. Many people wouldn’t be comfortable being photographed by a stranger, but then most of the folks I’ve come across are pretty ok with me taking their pictures. Its all about the “Human” factor. I took Denis’ email address promising him to send his picture and the link to this blog.
Claud was out for an evening stroll when I caught up with him. His nice blue jacked and contrasty yellow Tee made for a good combination. I told him about my project and he agreed to be a part of it. I took a couple of shots, took his email address, promised to send him his picture and bid adieu.
Christina was walking towards me when I stopped her and asked if I could take a portrait of her. I showed her a few pictures from the project and she got interested. As we got talking, I showed her my shots from my portfolio. She liked the pictures and agreed for the portrait. By this time, the sun had started to set and I wanted to make sure I had her lit at the right angle. I looked at the sky and made sure I had a good angle of light on her face. I placed her in an empty alley and took this shot!
While I was walking back home, I saw this beautiful young girl nicely dressed, sitting by the side of the road, enjoying her coffee and peering into her phone. I walked up to her, and when she looked up to me, I immediately knew I had to photograph this face. I told her about my project and asked her if she would pose for my portrait. I took a couple of shots, in the first few she kept looking at her phone and wouldn’t look up. I walked up to her and showed her the pictures, fortunately or unfortunately they turned out blurry, as the sun was setting and shooting with a longish lens, the shutter speed wasn’t enough to keep the image blur free. I immediately asked her for a couple of more pictures to which she agreed. I changed my camera mode to shutter priority, changed the shutter speed to 1/200 of a second and set the ISO to Auto. I took a couple of more shots and they came out perfectly. I showed her the picture, took her email address and bid goodbye, wishing her a nice evening and a good time with her coffee…
Summertime is a great time to shoot portraits of people in Copenhagen. The atmosphere is vibrant, people are generally in a happy mood, colourful clothes are to be seen everywhere. Well so I was heading back home today afternoon, I saw Anders walking from the opposite direction. When I observed him, I immediately knew he would make a great portrait. Nice contrasty sunglass frame, floral shorts and a handsome beard to go along. I stopped Anders and asked if I could take a portrait of his and he immediately agreed!
I met Carl while walking on the street near the Frederiksberg Metro station. He seemed to be in a jovial mood with music streaming in his ears. He seemed relaxed and I generally approached him for a picture, to which he agreed!
People of Copenhagen
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Debabrata Ray

People of Copenhagen

Street portraits of the people of Copenhagen