For those who live in a big city, lunchtime is among the choicest hours for people-watching. In the late 1970s, Charles H. Traub would carry his camera along to photograph passers-by during his break. Most of the portraits were taken on Michigan Avenue in Chicago and 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York, although there were a few taken around France and in Palm Beach.
“But then, who walks by but Jackie Kennedy, right in front of my camera, and says, ‘if you need to take my picture, please be quick’. I’m stunned! This is the most famous woman in the world at that time, without question. (…) I said to her, ‘I’m not here for that purpose’ – I really wasn’t, I really didn’t want to do celebrities. She thanked me and she walked on, and I’m laughing at myself like, ‘you idiot, you could have photographed the most famous woman in the world in the same way you’re photographing everyone else.’ No sooner had I said that, John Lennon and Yoko Ono walked past – I didn’t do them, either! The point is, everybody wants to be photographed. Everybody wants to be treated that way.” – Charles H. Traub for anothermag.com
It is difficult not to feel drawn into the spontaneous snaps of the colorful and vibrant characters with whom he crossed paths.
“I have the facility to approach people graciously, and they seemed to be cooperative. People want to be recognized, people want to be seen. If someone wears a nice pair of sunglasses, they’ve picked them for a reason.” – Charles H. Traub for anothermag.com
Before approaching people, the photographer would often play a game where he would imagine what profession they might have. Usually the strangers agreed to be photographed. And then Traub would capture his human specimens in blunt closeup, often featuring their personalities in extravagant detail.
“It was the 70s, and everyone had just started wearing sunglasses because Jackie Kennedy did. She was very famous for wearing sunglasses all the time. She created the style of wearing glasses – well it started in the 60s, but no one started doing it in that way until she did it; that was part of her look. Also, there was this thing in the 70s of wearing big glasses…” – Charles H. Traub for anothermag.com
His subjects are elegant fashionistas and prim gentlemen. You can delight yourself with eyeglasses, cigarettes, giant hair and spectacular colors.
Charles’s photographs are fiercely direct, transporting you directly back to that time zone. You look at his portraits and you feel a curiosity to discover more.
Also published on Medium.