One of the most important things that I learned is sometimes, you just need to put the damn camera down. In fact, more often than not, you don't even need it. Have conversations. Don't interview people, talk with them (this would be a good time to add the fact that I absolutely HATE referring to the folks I photograph as "subjects," it doesn't sit right with me). Ask them hard questions and let them answer. More importantly, really listen to what they have to say. In fact, don't just listen. Watch how they react. Watch their body language, their gestures, facial expressions. That's where you'll really "hear" what they're saying. Be sure to share yourself, don't just take. Don't take the photos, don't take the quotes. Honor them by sharing yourself as much, if not more, than they share with you. Be open, be honest. After all, if you aren't, how can you expect them to be?
We are often told that we need to maintain distance from the people we document. We are told that there need to be boundaries and we cannot pass them. Don't build relationships. Don't develop friendships. Don't make personal connections.
To that, I say... "pound sand."
How can we be expected to tell stories with our images without building relationships? Do our stories need to be the truth or what we perceive as the truth? How do we find the truth if we don't develop relationships? How do we find the deeper stories? I'm paraphrasing and I can't, for the life of me, remember who said this, but it was along the lines of, "if you're not having an experience, neither are they." You BETTER feel something. You BETTER give. You BETTER develop that relationship and that connection. Otherwise, it's just... hollow. Empty. How I was feeling about my work.
Not anymore. I can't wait to make more connections. Develop more relationships.
I can't wait to tell more stories. I can't wait to gain more friends.
And I sure as hell am happy I didn't get that refund.