What was it like to take photos of strangers before the internet? Mike Mandel's collection of snapshots from the 1970s might give you a bit of insight into photography before the age of Instagram.
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Back in April, Hattie Crisell spoke with photographer Mike Mandel for The New York Times Style Magazine about his series of photos taken of complete strangers in California during the 1970s when Mandel was just a 19-year-old kid. Combining his personal relationship with the automobile – “I grew up in Los Angeles and all of my experience of being in L.A. was about going from one place to the other by car,” – and his interest in doing “something that would have a little humor to it, and maybe a little riskiness,” he began walking to an intersection located just a block away from his house and taking candid photographers of Californians in their cars.
Concerning his process, Mandel would get up close and personal, shooting with a wide-angle lens resulting in the need to stand quite close to the cars – and people – he was photographing: “It wasn’t like I was looking at them from a distance — I wanted them to respond to me in some way… I think today there might have been a lot more paranoia about being surveilled or something, but in those days it was maybe a more naïve time. For the most part, people thought it was kind of funny, and responded in a jovial way, and I had a lot of fun doing it.”
Mandel’s work from this series consisted of 75 rolls of film which he has re-examined 45 years later: “It was interesting to go back and relook at something that you did 45 years earlier, and realize that you saw things then that you didn’t really appreciate until you were much older… That’s kind of cool for me.”
Photography: Mike Mandel
Source and quotes: The New York Times Style Magazine