I was talking to a friend of mine recently about a genre of photography that neither of us had really explored to date. We were trying to work out whether this was just a lack of interest or something else more rooted in our similar personalities. In the end, we concluded that it was just not in our ‘comfort zones’. It later dawned on me that this expression neatly describes what it is like for most people when they are trying to justify not doing something difficult and I realised that it’s actually pretty awful thing to say. The idea that we only ever do things that we are comfortable with inside some mythical boundary implies, for me, existing rather than living. It doesn’t lend itself to learning or making mistakes, discovering new interests or hobbies, instead just the notion of ‘same old same old’. This isn’t a particularly insightful thought, nor can it be considered a eureka moment, but it did get me thinking about what I am currently avoiding in order to stay ‘comfortable’.
It was always my intention to do three things when I changed career. The first was to pursue my artistic development through my continued studies on my degree course, the second was to help people get into photography through beginners’ tuition and courses and the third was to create a YouTube channel where I could share my experiences as a camera collector. The first two have had degrees of success, but the last one has been something I’ve almost completely avoided for the past 12 months. The reason? - appearing and speaking on camera has never been something I’ve been comfortable with. In my previous life I had no problem standing in front of large groups of people and speaking, whether delivering scripted training or ad-libbing a short-notice presentation, so I wasn’t sure why the camera made any difference. The answer, of course is that the camera presents us with a view of ourselves that we wouldn’t ordinarily see beyond looking at a reflection in the mirror. With video, we also get to hear our own voice in a way that differs from what it sounds like in our heads. If there is any level of self-consciousness about how we perceive both, it isn’t likely that we’d knowingly make such a recording of ourselves.
In my case, I am an introvert so the idea of sharing my thoughts and ideas in a way that I can be seen and heard is a pretty scary thing. Add to that the way that social media platforms have given everyone a voice that some often use without any restraint or consideration, and the whole idea of ‘putting myself out there’ goes beyond scary and on to terror. This free will to comment and criticise was brought home recently to me when I noticed a post by the RNLI which was, quite reasonably, trying to raise money. The comments below the post ranged from the admiration such an organisation deserves to the blatant trolling of their perceived ‘stance’ on rescuing immigrants from the Channel. I initially couldn’t believe what I was reading, but then it occurred to me that since all ‘subjective’ opinion is just that, needs no evidence to back it up etc., such people will always be there. In this case, though I was pretty sure they would be extremely grateful to be rescued by that fine organisation should they get into trouble at sea.
We can’t really control what people say, just accept or argue the point with them if we can be bothered. For me, remaining isolated from opinions that I might find hurtful or offensive isn’t conducive to building my tuition business, nor does it satisfy my need to pass on my knowledge and passion for photography and vintage cameras to others. I decided to think of things like YouTube as not being outside of some mythical bubble I live in called ‘comfort’, but instead something that I’d have a go at and, if I didn’t the result, move on to the next thing. There will likely be people who know more than I do, will pedantically point out any mistakes and generally not enjoy what I’m trying to do. However, there will also hopefully be some who connect with it. My perception of how people might react really shouldn’t hold me back. All of this reflection led to me posting my first video, which you can find at the link below. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges and yes, I don’t actually appear on camera… but it’s a start. I’d be interested in what you think of it, good or bad – I just won’t take it personally.