Shooting Fear in the Face in Chinatown NYC Part 1 of 5 / by Jason Joseph

Preface/Warning: If you're a fan of the acronym TLDR...close this.. run for the hills...and learn nothing. There is but one image to look at in this post (And truthfully its here just so you have something to look at.) (There are many images in the upcoming posts in the series though)
This series of posts is about something that far too few educators, bloggers and quite frankly photographers delve into...and I promise you, if you get through the entire 5 articles in the series...it just may change the way you shoot, and even your life...forever.
 


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light,” ~Charles Dickens,  “A Tale of Two Cities”

Arguably one of the most memorable opening lines ever penned.  I imagine, this collection of words, offered in this exact order, could easily be construed as a description of the “state of the photographic union” of this very day and age. For now, truly more than ever is  the “season of light”.  We have more tools at our disposal to create, measure and modify light than ever before. And more access to the knowledge necessary to master it on tap than each previous day afforded us. We are adrift in a virtual, almost cycloramic sea of information. And I used that word properly for I don't mean encyclopedic (which infers accurate information..but rather completely surrounded by....like a cyclorama) Jason make photographer joke.

It can be difficult to see over the waves, hard to ascertain which technique/light modifier/piece of advice to cling to, to get to shore. Does a softbox even float? The choices of what to do next, what course of action to take can be overwhelming! (I’ll pause while you take a deep breath !) The fact that you are here,..means you WILL find land....pay dirt if you will !

That is...so long as you don’t declare creative mutiny.

What do you mean ‘creative mutiny’ ?!? Lets see some photos, some diagrams... some gear!

OK... OK.. hey now... put the pitchforks and light stands down!
I come in peace...hear me out.

I’m here to share with you, a different kind of light. A light that every creative must turn to before they begin the process of creating. One that doesn't plug into a wall, one that doesn't run on batteries. A light that you can't purchase, pack or gel. The most powerful light you will ever use. The light within.

You see, creative mutiny is the thing that we do when we get in our own way. We tell ourselves...” I’d love to shoot, (insert subject of choice)  but I really need one more light to do it right. Or...If I wait till I get more gear, I’ll be able to make images that I’ll be proud of.  Or any other line of thought that deters us from doing something our heart truly desires. In essence, our hearts desires remain in the dark recesses of a mind that plays tricks on us.  it's constantly making us believe it has our best interest at hand and is protecting us from failure, by ensuring we’re ready to take on such lofty ambitions...when truthfully...it's keeping us in the dark.  

It's not until we turn the light on within us, and shine it on the thought processes, that we see creativity is our birthright, and that anything that tells us we are ill equipped to produce works of art with even the most rudimentary tools, is the enemy.

The secret sauce is not the same lens, flash, camera, light modifier, or lighting diagram for that matter, that anyone on the planet has access to. Nope. It's not.
In fact if I took you over To Annie Leibovitz’s place, and walked you into her studio with the lights setup from the same exact setup she just finished shooting...and I placed her camera in your hands..and in walked the subject she just finished shooting and I said to you.. OK.. GO!. Do your thing! This is your chance! Now you and Annie are on level playing ground.. now what? Well I’ll tell you what! We would get thrown out and probably arrested! I don't know Annie!

But the point is, you have one thing she, nor any other photographer has.. you have the ability to make your own choices. Choices unique to you. You have your own special set of internal triggers that tell you when something feels right or wrong. And it is not until you get in touch with them that you will make images that just absolutely sing! And it's super simple to get in touch with these internal triggers.. because there are only two of them. Think of them as a light-switch. On.. or off.

 As an artist, or hobbyist, or even just as a person in life.. nothing will serve you better than having the clarity of thought and mindful ability to look within. If you ask yourself one simple question to everything you do in relation to your art you will find you’re capable of things so great you will startle yourself! And I promise you this.

Simply ask yourself does this feel good? Or does this feel bad. Thats the light switch.. which position is it in!? When it’s on.... its ON! You’ll feel it.

  Now what the heck does this have to do with lusting after gear? Well....turns out it has quite a lot to do with it actually!. We tell ourselves that we will feel better once we acquire this.. or learn that... but in essence what we are doing is postponing our ability to experience the great joy we have in doing what we as human beings do naturally.. and that is creating!

We are at our best as humans when we’re creating! What we do subconsciously is put these obstacles in our way as a way of protecting us? Sound crazy? It may.. but its actually true.

In 1975 psychologist Rollo May wrote the following in his book The Courage To Create

“...danger always exists that our technology will serve as a buffer between us and nature, a block between us and the deeper dimensions of our experience. Tools and techniques ought to be an extension of consciousness, but they can just as easily be a protection against consciousness.  […] This means that technology can be clung to, believed in, and depended on far beyond its legitimate sphere, since it also serves as a defense against our fears of irrational phenomena. ”

 Think about that for a moment. The things we tell ourselves we need in order to make the images we aspire to make....do we really ‘need’ them? Truly? Will a lens with Image Stabilization be absolutely necessary to make the photo you wish to make? Really? What did photographers do in 1980, long before the term Image Stabilization was even coined? Did they wait till the technology arrived on the scene 14 years later?

The reason we attach false senses of security to the gear we do not yet have, telling ourselves that once we have it we will be ready, is fear! Yes fear! It may be fear of failure or fear of success. But make no mistake it is rooted in fear. And anything that you do to keep yourself from making images...or doing what you love, you can be certain that when you take an honest look at it, shine a light on it so to speak. You will find fear is the root of the problem.

Creative mutiny is born out of a sense of fear.. never out of a sense of love. Think about it how much more fun is it to go out and SHOOT than it is to read about what others are shooting! Heck I bet this article has you right about ready to turn the tablet off and run for the door! Ha and thats fine..I want nothing more than to inspire you to create!

China Town Street Corner by Jason Joseph

Rather than lament on the countless scenarios in which we cling to what we don’t have, ironically; ultimately resulting in new fresh images being the most resounding thing added to the list. I would like to refer to the words of a few very bright minds who throughout the course of history, have shone light on this sadly ever present plague of the creative souls of mankind.

Before I do, know this: I am writing this article not from the perspective of an outsider looking in, pointing a finger, but as someone who has bought the ticket...and been taken for the ride. And I’m here to tell you there are much better rides in the park...avoid this one. The line is short...for a reason!

This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.
— Terence McKenna

When I’m done quoting people smarter than myself.. The real fun will begin! I’ll take you on a journey through one of the coolest neighborhoods of New York City, share with you the the creation of several images, and walk you through my own confrontation of fear...as it unfolded during this assignment!

First I’d like to quote Steven Pressfield who wrote one of the most championed books in the field of creativity. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. He said: “Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” 
(While writing this article I’d mentioned this book to Jeremy Cowart, he fired back “ I LOVE that book!” )

Anthony Robbins says: “When you can’t, you must!”  Brilliant in its simplicity. Think of how your chances of making an image increase simply by replacing the word can’t  with the word must !

When asked for advice on painting, Claude Monet told people not to fear mistakes.

.John Cleese the famed Python comedian gave a wonderful lecture  on creativity in which he stated the following: " Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the FEAR of making a mistake. ...To play is to experiment.. what if.. the very essence of playfulness is the very openness to whatever happens, and the feeling that whatever happens is OK.“

Mr. Cleese isn't the only comedian with sage like advice, Conan O’Brien had this to offer on the subject: “I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

 And I, Jason Joseph... am here to tell you that even if you were to make nothing but mistakes...you will still learn a ton more than you ever will from simply reading. Even if you’re reading something as insightful as this article.

Robert Frost said: “Start with a big fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy love sickness and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve....Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not 2 weeks from now… NOW!"

The most important part to take away from that passage is “If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve”  If you believe that because you are setting out to make images without that piece of gear you desire, that you will fail, then ultimately you’re setting yourself up TO fail. You must realize that you are capable of achieving results far greater than anyone that walked before you with as little as you have. Even if its less than what they had. If you're not willing to give yourself that... to believe that. Then why even set out?! Set out with the excitement in your heart that anything is possible. That is the message Frost is delivering here.

Have you made excuses? I’m inviting you to shine the light within...take an honest look around, a deep breath..and journey with me on a quest to embrace...well, whatever it is that may come our way!  Put your fear in your camera bag, and lock it up. You can take it back out if you truly feel the need to, but not until we have new images, new lessons and new found knowledge about not only how your gear operates in real life situations..but also about how you operate

Enough with the pep talk and the soul searching. Are you ready to go make some images? Good.. me too!

Next week I'll reveal "The Challenge" and I'll show you the results of my own personal exploration into facing the fear, and the results will confirm... it's always worth it.
Join me, there will be lots more images!