29 Apr, 2016
Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff
I’ve been taking photos for a long time but over the past decade or so I’ve been doing it in a work capacity. Some of you Fishies will remember the few years I worked as a family portrait photographer. I came to a crossroads because I had to decide whether I wanted to write or dedicate more hours to photography. I opted out of growing the photography side of things, but still do a bit of it. I am lucky to have found a good balance in that respect.
I don’t take photos for every issue of the newspaper, just like I don’t have articles in every issue. Every once in awhile I find myself taking photos for a story we’re running in the paper. This can happen for several reasons: (1) I’m the person writing the story and I’m already there (2) it’s a story I’m interested in personally (3) there is no photographer available or (4) I’m going to be over budget.
Here I am, taking photos for a story we ran recently about the new festival in Westboro, called Westboro FUSE.
I used to be a shy photographer. Waves of anxiety would rise to the surface and get the better of me. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often anymore. The anxiety faded over time, which was a relief because I was convinced my nerves would be frayed forever. Who wants a lifetime of twitchy eye and heartburn? Hint: Not me.
What happened – other than the fact that I was taking hundreds of photos and learning from my mistakes – was that I adopted a work persona. I basically pretended I was someone else when I needed a bit of extra courage. I knew Andrea the Regular Person had moments of paralyzing shyness, but Andrea the Photographer did not. Andrea the Photographer kicks ass and does whatever she needs to do in order to get the shot. That might mean asking someone to do something unusual like stepping up on something or hugging a tree, touching people (“pardon me while I fix that stray hair”), sitting in the front row like a keener, or just getting up in front of a lot of people. Andrea the Photographer is bold! What also helps is having the name of a publication that she can whip out when she needs to: “Oh sorry, am I in your way? I’m just taking photos for…”) This helps convince her subjects that she’s not a crazy person.
She’s not rude, but she is assertive and smart. She knows that if she doesn’t nail the photo now, she’ll regret it later. Part of this is the courage to accept that she doesn’t know everything about everything and she doesn’t have to imply that she does. She’s not afraid to ask someone to wait a minute so she can double-check her camera settings. She also knows that people are happy to help her if she needs it and that it’s ok to ask. So what if she looks like a dummy for a second? She doesn’t care!
It’s quite liberating. You should try it.