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I want to talk to you about fear. If you're alive right now, you could make the argument that it's because you have particular relationship to fear. You could also argue with that that relationship is build upon your ability to say no to things. So, for example, if someone says hey! Why don't you come and stand in there is a rickety, old, decrepit 85-year-old elevator? If you say no then you have successfully ruled out the possibility that you'll plunge to your death in a horrible elevator crash.
You have also though ruled out the possibility that you might see these really cool old elevator controls that are on the inside. Nevertheless, we all have our own relationship to fear. We all have our own willingness to say yes or no to certain things. The interesting thing about your relationship to fear though is that you will employ it even in times when you're not actually in any danger. So, consider that unless you are a war photographer, say, or unless you out shooting lions, you're probably not in any danger when you're taking pictures.
Nevertheless, all of your fear- management mechanisms will be going. I recognized this a few years ago when I was teaching a class and a student came up to me during lunch and said "Would you mind coming and taking a look at some of my compositions? I just keep doing the same thing over and over, and I'm not liking it anymore." So I went looked at his pictures and he had some really nice shots, but sure enough, he was composing in the same way every time, and I would offer a suggestion and every time I started to offer a suggestion he would actually finish my sentence for me, because he already knew that idea. So I would say, well you know you could divide your frame into, oh yeah thirds I know about that.
Or I would say, well you know you could balance this tone, against that tone, yeah I know about that also. And finally I had to say, "Okay you know all of these things. What's the problem?" And he said, "Well, I just keep doing the same thing over and over," and all I can think I have to say was so stop doing that. Later though I started to think about what he was going through and how I felt it before too. There was some point in his photographic life where he went and composed a shot in this way and he liked it because it was new and fresh and when he came home he had a great feeling of success.
None of us want to come home with bad images. We fear coming home with bad images, because if we have bad images, we have to think, wow, maybe I'm really not a good photographer. Maybe this is all just a waste of my time and the fear of facing that is so great that when we find something that we know works, we will just continue to do that and we won't stop. And what starts as a way to feel success eventually becomes a rut, and we end up back in the very spot we were afraid of in the first place, which is feeling like you're bad photographer.
That's what this guy was facing. Maybe I'm not a very good photographer. I keep taking the same picture over and over. I can't offer you a way out of fear, but I can offer you the suggestion that maybe once you learn to recognize that you will employ your fear-management self then you can keep from getting into those kinds of ruts. In other words, when you go out, takes chances, and it strange to use this language about takes chances. I don't mean go stand in the middle of the street and shoot pictures. I mean challenge yourself to shoot things in a way that you don't normally shoot.
If you find yourself always framing in the same way, you've got to frame a different way. Now that's big talk coming from a guy standing in a rickety elevator who is not actually out shooting at the moment. So maybe build it into your shooting workflow while you're out shooting. Think okay, when I see a thing that I like I can shoot that picture that I always shoot, the one that feel safe to me. At least I'm going home with that one. But I can't leave the scene until I shoot some other things. I have to try moving around and working the shot. I have to do the thing that I think, oh, this just can't be a good idea, I'll do it anyway, because you never know where that's going to lead you. You have to challenge your fear.
You have to confront it directly and try to sneak around it and force yourself to do other things.
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