There are several kinds of adventurous: One is the type where you climb the sheer rock face of a cliff to photograph a rare fern. The second is where you put yourself in some place or some situation which is out of your comfort zone. The third may be asking a stranger if you can photograph him/her — I wrote a blog recently about that (“Shooting Strangers”). You can see it here.
This blog is about getting into and photographing some place or some situation which is awkward or, at least, uncomfortable. Basically, it’s about getting up your nerve — and jumping in. I’ll share a few personal experiences but that is all they are. Your situation will be totally different. Guaranteed.
I recall an assignment while in photography school: “Go to (and the instructor named a university town near school) and photograph subjects outside of your world.” And that, friends, is how I ended up in a tattoo parlor. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and I was nervous but the man at the front desk was courteous even though the look on his face said, “…um, aren’t you a bit old for this?” Friends, it was fascinating! The staff set up in a well lighted place just for me. The artist explained every step and answered my questions as if I were the most important person in the world. It couldn’t have been a better experience.
On another occasion I had entered a contest wherein I was to shoot a person at work. The image had to be made within a three hour window and was restricted to a small section of a touristy little town. Weekend. Tourists everywhere. No one working. Except the staff in the restaurants. Which is why I asked the owner of a small cafe if I could make some photos in her kitchen. She thought about it and finally granted me access. I got this shot of the cook happily(?) at work. I didn’t win the contest but I am pleased with the image and I got it only because I asked.
Here’s an interior shot of an old and unique stone house near where I live. The elderly lady that lived there had invited me and The Bride to tea. That was thirty-six years ago.
I lost contact with the family and it was only by coincidence that I met a granddaughter of the older lady. Should I ask to photograph the house? I thought: “Why not?”. I asked and had a beautiful experience around the grounds and in the house. And I made sure she got a copy of the photographs.
What’s the common thread here? Simple: You ask, you get a “yes” or a “no”. You don’t ask and the answer is always “no”.
I guess personality has a lot to do with it. My personality is to avoid being pushy — and I think most people are the same way. Whatever yours — force yourself to step into the unknown a bit. The rewards could be very nice. You never know until you ask.