Last week +Jake Johnson
asked a seemingly simple question on his post:"I am handing out Photography assignments. Anyone want one?"
Since I am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge, and improve my skills, I accepted his challenge. Little did I know that the project he created would be such an incredible catalyst, propelling people on new journeys of discovery and wonder...
I encourage you to please check out his original post, and review all of the amazing stories that have come from that one question above, all in less than a week's time.https://plus.google.com/u/0/113381419568450917747/posts/AYoNzDuFY6F
Here is how Jake described my assignment:
"I love NYC. I have a memory of a homeless family that I saw while walking through Central Park. I remember the little girl. She looked scared. They needed help and I chose to keep walking. I want to help someone this weekend for me. Somehow right the wrong that I did. Document it with one single image. You have until Tuesday Night."
I had a few ideas of what I might like to shoot, but I wasn't sure how to approach the subject matter, as this was very new territory for me. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of homeless people in New York City, so finding one was not as much of an issue as finding the right
one for this task.
I was fortunate enough to receive some wise counsel from +Alan Shapiro
who graciously agreed to meet my wife and I while we were visiting. We walked around for a while, during which he asked me a few general questions about my thought processes. Although I didn't have answers for all of them, he definitely got the wheels turning in my head, brainstorming possibilities about a number of creative options
I might consider. He then demonstrated a few of his techniques for breaking the ice, or determining if the person I wished to photograph might possibly enjoy the interaction. (At this point I needed a secretary, as I was taking mental notes like crazy, trying to absorb everything that was happening around me.)Please say hello to "Felix"
The man in this image had a cardboard sign that said FREE ADVICE (donations accepted). On this particular trip to the City, I didn't bring my DSLR with me, and only had a small point-and-shoot and my smart phone. Alan advised me that in his experience, some people are intimidated by a large camera, while others view it as a sign of professional status. And then of course, there are those that do not wish to have their picture taken at all, for any reason.
But I was determined to complete my #assignmentforjake
and Alan convinced me not to let choice of gear discourage me from that goal. Having recently observed Alan asking questions designed to establish rapport, I noticed that there were only a few small bills and some change in the tiny plastic cup Felix gripped within his bare hands. Felix and I made small talk for a few minutes, as Alan explained I was trying to learn something new, and would he [Felix] mind if we took a few photographs along the way...Why is Felix smiling?
Because he is happy
! Sure, there are things in life I imagine he'd wish were different. But he accepted that he is in control of his outlook on life, and didn't for a minute appear victimized by poverty or misfortune. He was polite, energetic (despite the cold and wind), and truly seemed to embrace that having a positive attitude is a choice
.What advice did Felix give me?"Do you like taking pictures? Does it make you happy? Then go take pictures, and be happy."
I came away from this experience with a sense of wonder and amazement at the human spirit. Between conversations with Alan, and our interaction with Felix, my day was filled with an unexpected sense of joy and purpose. If I had to summarize what I learned from this assignment, it would be that only YOU are responsible for your own self-confidence.
Thank you, Jake, for helping me expand my horizons, and experience something I probably wouldn't have ventured out to do.
Alan, I can't even begin to describe the appreciation I have for you as an artist and mentor. You forever changed how I look at my role behind the lens, and I look forward to meeting new challenges with open eyes.