Don’t talk to strangers

Kristina’s most recent post made me think about myself and how I respond to strangers asking me about my work. And I respond quite similarly to how she does, although maybe for slightly different reasons.

I too prefer to photograph alone. Sometimes with my boyfriend in tow, but he’s often paying attention to other things. That, and he’s not a photographer or giving unwanted input, so the act of photographing still, in a sense, is solitary.

The Approach

While I’m mostly a studio toy photographer, I sometimes venture into the great outdoors. When I do so too close to home, my neighbors get curious. “What have you got there?” “What are you doing?” And when I answer, admittedly probably down playing my passion, I get confused nods and oh okays. I very rarely will show a photo straight from my camera – the photo’s only mine until I review it, edit it and deem it time to post it.

Socially – Not Having It

It’s not that my neighbors or miscellaneous strangers mean anything, they just don’t quite get why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m fairly sure if I spent more time talking with them, while there’s no guarantee they’d find it worthwhile, they’d at least come to some sort of a mild understanding. That though is asking a lot of me as I’m severely introverted and a bit socially anxious. Aren’t I painting a great picture of toy photographers? But in reality, I’m great at small talk, I’m just not great at talking about me, unless I’ve known you for a while (or I’m posting on the internet). So strangers asking me personal questions gets me tense.

All that, and while I’m actually very proud of my images and how I’m progressing in my craft I haven’t always had the most supportive circle. Some people close to me brush off what I do as a self-therapy. And yes, art and the act of creating can be very therapeutic. For me however it’s worlds more than that, so it’s difficult to have this act I pour myself into be diminished.

Because of this, with those I don’t know, I just assume they won’t try to understand or see the merit in what I do – especially when I don’t have a final photograph to show them. While I’ll go on and on about my passion to those who seem genuinely interested, if an immediate positive interest isn’t shown from a person I come across while I’m photographing, I just don’t try.

In Conclusion

Good, bad, somewhere in between? While sure I should spread my joy in toy photography far and wide, sometimes it probably keeps me more sane not to. And with any situation, I think its okay to pick and choose what we share about ourselves.

And as long as any uncomfortable feelings that creep in when it comes to talking about what you do don’t keep you from actually doing what you do, than so be it.  Mitchel Wu is probably right in the comment he shared on Kristina’s post “the more you do it the easier it gets.”

So in that, the title of this post is a lie. Be like Shelly, do talk to strangers. For Kristina‘s and my sake, talk to all of them and tell them all about toy photography so that we don’t have to.

~Tourmaline .

How do you respond when someone approaches you while you’re photographing?

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  1. Thanks for provoking my own thinking here.
    I probably do most of my ‘in the wild’ photography around daybreak as a way to focus on the light, enjoy the peace and have fewer people around. Oddly enough, when people see me, they seem to work out what I’m doing fairly quickly, and keep on walking their dogs…

    Occasionally there is an ‘oh wow’ kind of sound, and that gives you a special kinda of buzz.

  2. As someone who has said it loud and proud in the past, I can attest, the world simply doesn’t care what you’re doing. When I’m out and about photographing by myself in parks, no one asks me what I’m doing. Even though I might be crouched in the woods, or lying near the walking path, no one stops to talk to me.

    When I first started taking toy photos outdoors, I thought I was a spectacle and everyone was looking at me. Now I know that most people are lost in their own bubbles and I barely register on their radars. We are live in our own little worlds somehow under the impression that other people notice or even care what we’re doing. I say, do what you want, where you want and be positively honored if anyone bothers to take the time to talk to you.

    As for photographing alone, I will confess that is when I actually get work done. When Im out with other toy photographers, or even my family, I tend to be too social and I don’t concentrate on the task before me. My choice to be alone has nothing to do with privacy, its only a desire to concentrate on the task at hand.

    Nice follow-up to Kristina’s post Jennifer. 🙂

  3. I have a hard time explaining to people what I do.
    “I photograph toys” doesn’t rally cover the depth of our work, somehow.
    Now, I hand them a small photo album of some finished work and my card with my website. They either get it or they don’t.

  4. brett_wilson

    After many years of “set up, shoot, retreat” to hide what I was doing, I now don’t give a hoot. I think I’ve encountered most reactions to my answer “I’m photographing toys” when asked. The ones of bemusement and bafflement don’t even register anymore. The responses of intrigue I elaborate on.
    Like Richard says, I’m usually out at dawn, and often at the same beach. I’ve got to know the local dog walkers and surfers over the years. We now simply smile and say g’day when we cross paths. Occasionally someone will stop and watch and chat. I’m more a regular occurrence than an oddity now!

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