The Back Story
My fourth-grader was going to play his violin and sing with his classmates. The stage was nearly set. Like eager parents in the second row, I craned my neck to see where Rohan was going to stand. The curtain had just been closed and a slideshow highlighting the music program at the school played in the screen looming above us.
As we waited for the video to end, I noticed that the chorus was being led in by the teachers, behind the curtain. Towards the bottom of the curtain, I could make out their feet shuffling back and forth in restless anticipation of the big reveal. This was the final concert of the fourth grade and it looked like every student was on stage!
My eyes shifted to the silhouetted figures of the music teachers. Their backs to us, they had their hands stretched out, as if they were waiting to be spirited away. It was graphically interesting. I also noticed the music stands and empty chairs in the foreground.
Background, check. Foreground check. All that was missing was my presence there with a camera. In fact, I had brought my camera along with me.
The Origins Of Failure
As I noticed all of these things in front of me, I was sitting down wondering whether I should go up and make that image I had in my mind quickly. “What would the other parents say or think,” I wondered. Was this my ego talking? Is sure was. Then my younger son insisted on sitting on my lap and that gave me an easy way out of the possibility of photographing what I saw in front of me. This is a text case of laziness. Lastly, as the video wound down, I just became fearful that I wouldn't get the photograph any way. Even as a trained and experienced photographer, there are these moments of sheer anxiety that can't be explained.
But there you have it. Three strikes on myself and I got myself out … I couldn't shake the idea that I had simply failed myself.
If you were to look at the image again, you'll notice that I was a mere three feet away from what could have been a truly wonderful image. But instead, I sat in my seat and refused to move. The cost of a lost moment? Priceless. So, yes, I am kicking myself hard for not committing to make this image when I had the chance.
Instead of beating myself about it, though, I have chosen to write and talk about this part of the creative process I imagine every one of you goes through as well.
So fess up, does this happen to you when you are out making photographs for yourself or for your clients?
Here are my recommendations for doing better next time:
1) If you are sitting down and you see something, spring to action towards the scene. The closer you get to what you want to photograph, the better. (Please use your better judgement however when it comes to photographing something dangerous).
2) Just as soon as your brain starts to fight and says, “NO” … use you inner voice and say “YES”. This sounds simplistic, but try it.
3) Do not be afraid of making a total fool of yourself. If you do and don't get the image, it's ok. There will be other opportunities to create what your vision is propelling you towards. The people around you do not have a camera, nor are they photographers. They simply do NOT see what you are seeing. What differentiates you from them is your capacity to construct these photographs as they evolve in front of you. It's a gift … go out there and receive it.
I am convinced that we often don't reach our goals because we let our unfounded fears and ego get in the way. Do you agree? Have you tried this before? How do you overcome your creative roadblocks? Comment below. Your ideas may not only help you, but also other artists (like me). So, please speak up!