12.22.2009

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." Joseph Campbell


"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."  Joseph Campbell


Nearly every photographer I've ever met is afraid to approach strangers in public and ask permission to photograph them.  The few that were not afraid were most probably sociopathic.  So, how is it that some people are able to overcome this fear and take photographs of strangers in public?


They begin by confronting their fears.  You work up your courage.  You approach the situation with butterflies in your stomach and you ask.  And, surprisingly, most times the person smiles and says "yes."  They are flattered.  They are human. They are part of the continuum of humanity.




The more often you practice the better you are able to push down the fear until you nearly conquer it.  Then you move on to the next challenge.  The next fear.  Joseph Campbell says it better than I in one quick sentence.  


Consider this next time fear of a deadline, a meeting, a new way of doing something presents itself.  By pushing against the fear you may unlock doors of which you only dreamed.  Steven Pressfield, in his incredible book, The War of Art, basically says that resistance is stronger the closer you get to accomplishing your goals.




Happy Holidays!   Kirk



16 comments:

Alireza said...

It's very true. It might work and it might not, but if it does, it can be really rewarding!
And happy holidays to you!

DantePasquale said...

This is my usual method but my shots look more paparazzi than yours ;) I've found that in more 'controlled' settings, like the paddock at a sports car race, or an animal welfare event, that the common enjoyment of the surroundings makes people more approachable and actually *like* to have their picture made! It may be a better place to start rather than stopping people on the street(which I do anyway!)

David Ingram said...

Wow, cool post Kirk. Thanks, I thought I was the only one... Happy holidays to you too!

Anonymous said...

You are like a Zen priest. I fear I am being drawn into your sphere. And I like the way you use ellipses.

Paul said...

First, regarding taking pictures of people on the street, I have found that 90% of the time they are surprised/flattered and say yes. Second, I love the writings of Joseph Campbell! Great photo, Kirk!

Anonymous said...

A similar quote I like is "Procrastination is the fear of success"

Poagao said...

'Tis easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, as they say. I usually just shoot first and ask questions later. Sometimes you get the best of both (and, admittedly, sometimes you don't, but at least you have the first shot if they refuse).

kirk tuck said...

Poagao,

Seems like that would be a good answer until you decide you want more than a quick, documentation of someone. The images that really hit you are the ones where there is some sort of collaboration or willing complicity between the photographer and the subject. For that you need to consciously and directly engage the other person. No free lunch. Even in photography....

Mike Mundy said...

Yes, but . . . if we start to talk about "Decisive Moment" pix, then I think the rationale is different. Quick and unposed.

I'm sure that HCB collaborated with some of his subjects, but I'd think that most of his more famous images were non-collaborative grab shots.

Anonymous said...

Great post as usual! What about model release? Have you ever ask for one doing street shooting?

BTW, already bought two of your books couple of weeks back. Christmas came early for me this year, you know ;-) It's just a token thank for your great blog along with Mike Johnston's as I check your and his feeds every time I open the browser.

kirk tuck said...

Yes, but Mike, we're talking about confronting fears and capturing decisive moment may be difficult but I'm not sure it inspires fear and resistance the way face to face encounters do. If that kind of photography moves you and that is what you practice you might consider the parts of photography or life that do inspire you to be afraid and perhaps look to them as a source of treasure.....

kirk tuck said...

When I walked through San Antonio's fabulous downtown with my camera yesterday I asked five people to pose for me. Three agreed and two declined. That's three more than I would have had if I never asked....

Stephen said...

I came here after I had already started this year's daily project, 365 portraits, no repeats. I've taken the liberty of quoting you.

Willing Complicity

Curt Schimmels said...

Nice article. I have to agree, I've had excellent luck when asking. A particular remembrance of this was a Summer day, here in Los Gatos, a few years ago. It was over 100, which is unusually hot for our area. There was a couple and their dog, where the couple were stretched out on a park bench, and the dog had exhausted the length of his leash ( a good 20 feet), in order to lay in the shade. It was such a perfect photo in my mind, so I asked their permission, and shot.

Nick David Wright said...

I worked for newspapers for almost 10 years, this was the thing I had the hardest part with. Walking up to complete strangers and asking for permission to shoot their pictures was always difficult for me, but I eventually got pretty good about it.

My problem now is that I don't work for anyone but myself (photographically speaking), so I can't preface my request with "I work for the local paper ..." And I find myself scared to ask all over again. Silly isn't it?

sofhispalis said...

What a beautifull girl. At least this time, would be interesting know the name of phtographed person...
Here in Brazil there's this approach fear too. But here people are more accessible in this aspect. Whenever I'm afraid in these and other situations, I remember that Joseph's phrase.
Great photo and text!