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Venice Beach, California, 2013

Stalker Shots

With ninja stealth, Michelle Groskopf snaps strangers on the Cali coast. But is it right?

Virtually undetected by the tourists and frolickers at Venice Beach and Salvation Mountain, Michelle Groskopf cherishes her role as an “invisible witness” to their inner experiences with her camera. But please don't call her a voyeur. With hard-core respect and love as her "photographic code," Groskopf partakes of children and young couples's moments on the beach, families huddled together in small clans: the joy of the everyday. Despite potentially risky confrontations with her subjects, she remains zealously undaunted at a gut-level: "I will do whatever it takes to get the shot. I never think of risk or consequence. In fact, I’m not really thinking at all. Only acting."

What inspired you to take this series? What were you trying to achieve?

I was driven by curiosity and wonder. I was right there alongside these people, trying to interpret what they were feeling in that chosen moment. Even if only fleeting and one-sided, it was a powerful and strange connection. People are amazing.

What are your current obsessions?

Moments that expose great human vulnerability. Suburbanites immersed in raw nature, small families on vacation in overwhelming external situations. Capturing people having internal moments in public, lost in their own thoughts.

Is there anything unique about your creative process?

I’ve developed ninja-like skills for grabbing a shot without being detected. It’s rare that people notice me shooting them. When they do, it can lead to some very tense, even scary moments.

Has your role as an “invisible witness” ever led to an ethical dilemma, in terms of respecting people’s privacy?

Walking the line is challenging. Above all, I truly love and respect the people I photograph. They move me and I hope it shows. Love is my photographic code. It keeps me out of trouble.

Thanks to Capricious Magazine, buy issue #14 here