Just hanged up the phone a minute ago. And here I am in front of the (virtual) blank page, because someone somewhere said that by virtue of writing we understand - in medicine we call it reflective writing...
Today I had a pretty long and enlightening conversation with a football player. He called to say thank you for a canvas we sent him a few months back as a gift - and this was probably going to be one of the many daily forty-five seconds phone call that we forget about, except that it didn't work that way, for a number of reasons:
1. I live in texas. And yes, we do have two-hours chats with people who dial the wrong number down here - Southern charm maybe, what do i know, but yes it happens.
2. He chose, unsolicited, to give me a piece of his mind which turned out to be pretty interesting, and so we ended up talking for a while.
A bit of background - I've been shooting his NFL team for like four years now. Not too often, maybe a couple of practices and two or three games a year, because they are out-of-State - but I guess recurring enough to become someone that 'they have seen on the field before'. He stayed with the same team since the first time I traveld up North for a game, so he keeps seeing me walk around with a camera.
On the phone today we talked about his canvas, and how he gave it to his sister who has it on the wall and loves it, and small chat. And then he came up with these words: "you are cool to talk to, why are you so not friendly in person?"
Yep, sometime a random stranger just throws a brick in your face, just like that. Honestly I did not find a good word to answer, and he kept going "when you come to the game you just show up, do your work, take photos, and never talk to any of us. You look like you are not friendly at all or you do not care".
Talk about a wake-up call!
And I said you know what - guilty, guilty as charged.
Totally true: me being me, hiding behind the lens - 20 plus inches of excuse not to interact with other human beings...
Sometime I joke that the camera gives you superpowers - it gives you the gift of being invisible when you hide behind the lens. But you know how all super-heroes say their powers are a blessing and a curse at once? Well this one is too - for we are not really invisible, we are still visible but making a statement that we do not want to get involved.
Well, that - until someone calls you out on it, ha!
And it's not the first time I get called out, either - haha yes, guilty x 2, I haven't yet mastered the whole #learningfromexperience thing.
Last year I had a similar experience with women soccer, when a goalkeeper up on the West Coast walked up to me and asked - so you've been here at practice all week. Are you going to say hi or what the f...? And my answer was that, most likely - had she not taken the initiative to come talk to me, I would have kept hiding behind the camera.
Clearly, I'm not an extreme people person - or as the goalkeeper put it - my 'people skills' suck. After all I shoot water plants and buildings, in a profession where most of us focus on making memories for people shooting weddings, engagements, families - I chose to spend my time among inanimate things... but then, bad people skills affect the business end of things for sure, because companies are made of people.
And there's definitely good reasons (technically) for hiding behind the lens - especially when trying to be a non-influencing observer. And there's some logic behind avoiding interactions with people whom, by virtue of their profession, have to deal with too many requests and interactions already. And that was one of my arguments in today's phone conversation: y'all have a jillion fans and random people who want to interact and talk to you already... honestly I have no reason to be yet one more human being that wants a word with you, unless I have something useful to bring to the table. When I do, like I just did to send you your print - then it's not a waste of time and I certainly interact. But if there's nothing I can do for you, then I kind of stay in my place and out of your way, so to speak.
And I guess he was determined to cut through the excuses today, and told me this story:
"If my wife shared your viewpoint and saw this as a waste of time, I would not be happily married with a family today. We became friends in high school because she was helping out around the football field and we started talking at practice. We are married now. Everyone has something interesting to share. I have something interesting to share - if you don't take the time to talk to me, you'll never know, and my perception is that you don't care. I'd rather be bothered by too many people than surrounded by people who don't care or look like they don't care. Start talking to people, and you will find that they are a lot more interesting than you think. That's how I found my wife, talking to people at my games."
Well, this took the concept of 'random conversation with a stranger' to a whole new level. And hit home, definitely - on my big weakness that I tend to dismiss with the I'm not a people person label, whatever that means.
Interesting, how a random phone call from someone wanting to say thank you for a gallery wrap ends with me saying a much bigger thank you for a life lesson. And what a lesson!
And so beware, world - maybe someday E. will take the hint and come talk to y'all... ;)
A couple of years ago my friend Tamara gave a talk about our behavior as photograhers, touched the subject of some of us with the tendency to use the camera as a shield to hide behind - and closed it by saying that sometime we should put down the camera and 'look for the light'. I made the #lookforthelight one of my favorite Instagram hastags, and y'all probably see it often on my random #phoneography.
But yes, indeed, today is the day when I realize that I should listen to Tamara - and quit hiding behind the camera all the time.
And maybe I will.
#itsaworkinprogress #photographerlife #lookforthelight