It started as an assignment for my photography class: "The Art of Photographing People." We worked with the technical aspects of angle, contrast, and composition; critiquing student examples in class, experimenting with cropping and color models.
"But photographing people is not about the technical aspects - you must try to find the essence of the person. And you should ask permission before taking the picture." Our instructor, Meredith Mullins, was adamant about this. "The other challenge is to capture the person or activity without the "say cheese" type of photo."
Petra proved to be a willing subject. He was delighted whenever he saw me approach with my camera. Furthermore, he somehow managed to convey through pantomime and fingers tracing tears down his cheeks, that he would send the photographs that I had taken to his mother still in Romania.
I try not to think about Petra's family - do the children go to school? Or do they also beg on street corners, or worse - pick pockets? I don't want to know, but I can't deny his humanity. He's not faking the blessings and gratitude that he bestows on me after I ask to see his book of Bible stories.