Photography as exposure therapy

mental health 2 Nov 17

Last week I was stressing out over some portraits. I kept telling myself I can’t do this. Over and over. I simply can’t do this. I should have bought a drone instead of my Leica and stuck to buildings. Buildings can’t hurt me, outside of falling on me or me falling off. I did what I often do and stress about cameras. I need a new one. The ones I have are rubbish. Stupid things like that. I guess it’s my octopus brain lashing out at things trying to latch onto fears. ¯_(?)

If you’re not familiar with dealing with an anxiety I’ll explain this technique we’re supposed, but so often forget, to use to combat it. Basically you write the thought down and challenge it.

  • I can’t do this.
  • Well why not?
  • Because I can’t talk to people.
  • Is there any evidence to support that? Can’t is quite an absolute.
  • I’m rubbish at small talk at parties and things. But then I do great small talk and terrible dad jokes while doing commercial portraits. I keep getting hired and told how good I am with people so I must be alright at it.
  • Well there you go. You keep getting portrait work because you’re good with people.

So armed with that reminder I set out and met with some people. I talked and then I took their photo. The photo was 5 minutes. The talking was over an hour. I don’t need to work at buying cameras. I need to work at making connections because when I do I can have fun. I can laugh with total strangers over interesting tales.

If I hadn’t have gone out the other day I wouldn’t have ended up in a tea shop which lead to me meeting Dani and his friend. I asked him not to pose and to act natural. He challenged that idea which really took my by surprise. For him dressing up and posing as a character is a way to give himself confidence. His natural self isn’t confident. So for me to tell him to be natural is to say don’t be confident. We had a good chat about it after the photo.

Technology has never made me laugh. Whimsy in design maybe makes me smile but never laugh. Games, movies, books, and music make me laugh and smile. The content makes me think. But the devices themselves, nope. That’s something to think about as I sit here looking at iPhone X reviews already knowing that its the best iPhone ever made but also knowing that it won’t make me laugh. Honest human connection does that. I might be technically better at photographing spaces than I am people but photographing people makes me better.