From the moment I first looked through the course pdf for Identity & Place at the beginning of November 2018 I was filled with dread about the prospect of having to engage with strangers for the first assignment – a dread so intense that it has even blocked me from starting work on the exercises as I battled with indecision about whether to drop out of the course. On many days I made a firm decision to continue and then an equally firm decision to drop out, seesawing between the two positions repeatedly as I ran through their respective pros and cons.
Hoping that it would make me feel better equipped to face the task, I watched an instructional youtube video on asking strangers to pose for portraits, took a LinkedIn Learning course on the same subject and another on photographing people in natural light – but if anything these made me feel even more apprehensive as I realised how little idea I had about what I was trying to achieve. Finally I reached a point where it became clear that just going out and asking some strangers whether I could take their photo was going to be less of an emotional rollercoaster than continuing to prevaricate, so I did exactly that. In a roughly two-hour walk around Brighton beach and marina I managed to find two suitable targets, both of whom were surprisingly willing to have their photo taken.
Although I felt relieved to have two subjects under my belt, I realised I was no closer to having a sense of what I was trying to achieve. I did, however, come to the conclusion that the photos in which the subject looked directly at the camera had most potential, so made a resolution to make sure I included similarly direct shots in subsequent sessions. It took another half a dozen outings over a couple of weeks before I finally had sufficient images to find a theme, and my doubts about continuing with the course persisted throughout this period. It was only when I started reading Art & Fear (Bayles & Orland, 1993), recommended by a peer to whom I confided my feelings, that I realised that my doubts and feelings of inadequacy didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t suited to the course – or indeed, to being a photographer/artist.
Now that I have my images and a potential theme for the assignment I am very happy that I didn’t drop out. This probably won’t be the last time I feel such overwhelming doubts, but knowing that I found a way through this time will surely help when similar feelings arise in the future.
References and resources
Bayles, D. and Orland, T. (1993) Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. Santa Cruz, Oregon: Image Continuum Press.
Windsor, J. (2018) How to ask strangers for photos. Available at https://youtu.be/BWip3-T3ev4 [accessed 06.03.18]