Eric Retterbush has never liked taking photos of people. The practice feels invasive and risks overlooking the beauty of, say, a wheelbarrow or a particularly striking façade, he says. It also teeters on voyeurism. How many in the throng of a bustling Burmese market—one of the countries he works in as a travel guide (his day job)—have been photographed without their permission? Wasn’t it Honoré de Balzac who said all physical bodies were made of ghostlike images, “an infinite number of leaflike skins laid one on top of the other,” and repeated exposure to a camera stripped these—that is, the very essence of life—off?
No—street photography, candid portraiture, a shot of someone who doesn’t know you—it was never Retterbush’s pull.
And yet, for the past four months, it has been people who are the subject of Retterbush’s photos.