The Power of Fear

(I’ve been clearing out my computer desktop and found some blog posts that I’d started writing but never posted – this is one from late 2015.)

For the last few weeks I’ve been mulling over a creative project. It’s not amazingly innovative – the proposed name I have is Freetown 366. It would be one of those projects where I try to publish a street photo every day in 2016 (which happens to be a leap year). The goal is to have a big creative project for me to focus on, which gets me out taking a lot more photos (instead of just listening to photography podcasts and reading websites).

The issue is of course that that’s quite a lot of photos, when so far I’ve taken no street photos in my life! For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get myself to walk around the streets with my camera. But here comes the rub – I always find an excuse not to. A few months back it was that I needed a new camera – which is why a bought a little Sony camera (A5100). Then the big fear was theft, so I bought a handy wrist strap. But still I kept finding excuses – including the weather. I came to realise that there was a deep seated fear inside me about stepping out. On the surface the principal fear would be getting my camera stolen, getting into arguments or getting attacked – all of which are pretty unlikely events. The most likely negative outcome, getting the camera taken from me, hardly constitutes the end of the world.

Instead there’s a really deep underlying fear of failure, and a reluctance to leave comfort zones. It’s actually a big thing for me. I don’t really have many excuses for not doing projects like this – work is calming down, I have plenty of free time (not having much else to do without family here). And I also want to be the type of person who is a good photography, carries out projects, and writes. These are things I pencil in for my post-2030 working life, though I take on board the wisdom of Tim Ferris and others that there’s no use saying ‘I’ll do X later in life’ – if you can’t do it now, you won’t do it then.

On Friday evening (when the light was really nice) I delayed again, but on Saturday I got up with the sole intention of driving to work and then walking from there to take photos on a stroll in the city centre. This time, after weeks of putting off, I actually did it. I’d like to say that after overcoming my fears things all opened up and I came back with lots of stunning images. In fact, after more than an hour walking around I came back with very few keepers. But it’s a start.


Postscript (15 May 2018) – I finally got out there, and I didn’t skip a day of publishing photos throughout 2016 on a Facebook page, Freetown Street 366. The project didn’t create a massive buzz, but those who found the page, enjoyed the project, and the photos were featured in a local online magazine, where they are continually used to illustrate stories. There were no negative experiences to report from the streets beyond a few people saying no when I asked for permission to take their photo – and the camera I bought back then with its basic lens has been kicking around in my work bag every day since then, and continues to serve me well (in fact I sold all my other camera equipment).

There’s a mix of quality in the images, but all in some way capture the Freetown street. Did it massively increase my photography skills? I don’t think so. Did I learn how to use the camera beyond the basic settings? No. But still, I have the satisfaction of having completed a major project and created a body of work that I can be proud of. So, here’s to breaking through fear.

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