Saturday, February 19, 2011

Photographic Fear

I've been reading a book called "In the Yikes Zone: A Conversation With Fear" by Mermer Blakeslee.  It’s nominally about skiing. The vignettes and stories throughout the book are about skiers afraid of some aspect of skiing and how the author helps them understand and work through what makes them afraid. They learn how to understand their fear and work with it to improve their performance. The skiers experience degrees of fear from mild discomfort and frustration at not wanting to chance a challenging run to being literally paralyzed at the top of a hill, sometimes even the bunny hill, when they get off the lift. Some of them ski pretty well in their comfort zone but avoid anything remotely challenging. Others are so afraid they need to be guided down a small run with Mermer skiing by their side or skiing backwards in front of them, talking them through every little bump and turn on the way down. Some are new, inexperienced, afraid of their untested potential, of stretching too far. Others have been skiing for years, are very experienced and know well the painful consequences of overreaching.

Some are afraid of injury but most seem to be afraid of more than just getting hurt. They are afraid of confronting the uncomfortable. The extreme cases get anxious, afraid of being afraid which feeds more anxiety and more fear until they’re tense, stiff, paralyzed, can’t feel what their bodies are doing, can’t flow with the terrain. They’re so afraid they can’t begin to become better skiers.

I see many parallels with fear in photographic situations. If you’re afraid of shooting a subject, whether it’s a person or a poisonous snake you’ll get tense, tentative. You won’t flow with the “terrain”. You won’t stay with a shoot long enough or get good shots while you’re doing it.  When you’re afraid in any photographic situation you get timid, tentative with the camera, bringing it to the eye only occasionally, furtively.

But what are we really afraid of? We worry too much…about too many things. We over-think. We’re afraid of being afraid before we even shoot. Afraid of confrontation when we point the camera. Fear of rejection when showing the photo. Fear of over-reaching. Fear of getting hurt. Get over it! Let it go! It’s not as bad as all that. You're not likely to break any bones. It’s only a very small fraction of a second and you're done.

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