Superman and the Shy Street Photographer

Feb 14, 2018

You may be wondering what Superman and a shy street photographer have in common. Bear with me for a few minutes, and I’ll try to fill you in! I am an extremely shy person. I remember being so nervous when I had to give oral presentations in grade school. In fact, at the end of my very first spoken report in grade 8 English class, I fainted! But I digress. That was a few years, sorry, decades ago! Back to the topic of street photography, how does a person as self-conscience as me enjoy street photography so much? How do I summon the nerve to take pictures of strangers or ask a total stranger if I can make a street portrait of them? Well, that is where Superman fits in!

Superman’s Cape

One of the reasons I like photography so much is because it lets me hide behind my lens. I don’t have to be the centre of attention; I let my subjects do that. But even more importantly, I imagine my camera as a disguise that transforms me into someone else. And that new someone is self-assured and brave. Kind of like what Superman’s cape does for Clark Kent. My camera gives me a chance to assume an entirely different character.

A Shy Street Photographer

When I first began shooting street I was a shy street photographer, I hadn’t made the connection that my camera was my “cape.” When I lifted my camera up to my eye, I worried that the person at the other end of my lens would get upset at me, even yell at me. If you are just starting out, rest assured that this is a typical feeling! Luckily there are lots of great ideas and tips online for getting over your fear. Just google “fear in street photography,” and you will find pages of suggestions. And I tried many of those. I took pictures of buskers and used a small camera. I tried using longer focal lengths. The backs of people’s heads and dogs became familiar subjects. And although I was growing slightly more comfortable, I was still afraid of what people thought.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane …

Then one day it hit me, and I realized that my camera was my secret weapon. When I lifted my camera to my eye, I would morph into my alter ego. As this “other” Elizabeth I felt empowered, unafraid, and outgoing. Street photography became a lot less scary! It is a lot of fun pretending to be someone else! So if you are a shy street photographer, find a phone booth, dawn your cape and find your inner Superman.