Her interest in her subjects covered two areas, women and the people who live lives that make most of the rest of us uncomfortable, as Reynolds puts it. She wants to make sure we can’t ignore them.
That’s where her photography comes in. “I am compelled to make them known, to look at their bodies in space then find the moment where shape, texture, color and light convey the fullness of their humanity,” she writes in the book. Convincing strangers to let you convey their humanity takes some doing.
Reynolds describes how she would sit in the bar they frequent with her camera in plain view, meeting them in their own space, in their own time. “I kept coming back to the bar,” she writes. “The regulars were friendly.”
She never hid the reason she was there. “I always carried my camera. I wanted to be transparent about why I was there and who I was.” Her approach worked so well that some of her subjects would, after a time, just announce that they were ready to have her photograph them.
It’s then that Reynolds’ artistry comes through, in her portraits.
She talks with them and gets to know them. She doesn’t pose her subjects but lets them assume the posture they’re comfortable with, a pose that defines them. Some invite her into their rooms, and some choose the outdoors in front of a wall that Reynolds uses so it’s not distracting, like a seamless background. Favoring open shade, Reynolds waits for the moment to reveal itself.
When working on a portrait, Reynolds strives to find the moment when her subjects drop their facade, looking for the moment when her subject moves from a pose but hasn’t yet struck another. “Sometimes it happens right there, in the in-between. And I know it’s happening. Sometimes I shoot all these things on the other side of that thing in the middle.”
So she waits, and she talks, and she’s uneasy about her role. “It’s conflicted, because I’m manipulating and controlling the subject to get what I see, what I want, what is beautiful, to me. I want to expand who they are, to extend the story.”
By taking her time, the stories reveal themselves.