Sunday, December 26, 2010

Facing Fears, Being Social and Taking Portraits of Strangers

A big difference in this past trip from previous trips is the amount of people I talked to and photographed along the way.  This year, I went out of my way and outside of my comfort zone to talk to people I would normally not approach, but wanted to inside.  I did things I would usually shy away from and just decided to take a chance.  It wasn't easy, but after I did it a few times, it became easier and easier to do.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  Well, the hardest part is actually doing it.  Not just once, but at least once a day for months.

I used to hide behind the camera and take shots of people without them knowing.  In the past, it was easier since I could hide the point and click camera I was using and most people didn't notice so I would just snap and walk away.

This year I decided to get closer.  Closer to the people I was choosing to photograph and that meant approaching them, asking for their permission to photograph them and take a photograph that wasn't "posed".  It was a fast conversation since I didn't want them to move or change their body language but long enough for them to feel comfortable.  Not an easy task.  A lot of the time, I approached these people because I saw the photograph right in front of me and I didn't want them to move but wanted them to know I was taking the photo and wanted them to be ok with it.

Because I decided to move past this comfort zone, naturally I learned a lot about myself and even better, made a positive connection with a stranger.  The more positive experiences with this, the easier it became to approach people.  It turns out, people are human, just like us!

I still use caution when I see what I really want to photograph and what would be safe to photograph. A lot of the time what I really wanted to take photos of wasn't a safe place for a solo female traveler to be.  I did take a few chances, however.  I drove up to homes and knocked on the door if I saw someone or something that looked interesting to me.  I asked homeowners in Ohio if I could take a photograph of their hanging laundry and asked a man standing outside of his home in Maine if I could take a portrait of him in front of the wrecked ship in his yard.  Each time, they said yes. However, each time I had no idea what I would come across when I stepped into someone else's property.

Beyond the strangers I came across, I also met and stayed with people I didn't know too well that have turned into dear friends.  Beware of what you offer people, sometimes they might just take you up on it.

As the year wraps up, I wanted to extend a heart felt thank you to all of the people I came across on the road.  Some of you I chatted with for a few minutes and some I stayed in your home for weeks.  I am thankful for each person I came across.  It has been quite the year.  Thank you for following me here on my journey.  I look forward to writing my 40 goals for my 40th year soon.


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