I remember one of my professors telling a story about a street photographer from a few decades ago who was walking down the street, working, when something dramatic happened, like someone was having a heart attack or fell and hurt themselves. And the photographer kept shooting. It made for some great images, but I’ve always had a feeling inside me that curls when I hear that story. Part of me wonders if I’d keep photographing or if I’d stop and help the man up. Sometimes I’m not really sure. In the images there were a lot of other people around, so the victim had help available, but still… what would I have done?
At what point do you stop doing what you do? When does a worship leader at a church just need to be silent? When does the busy Mom stop and listen to her kids instead of worrying about being late? When do you help someone pick up a mess they spilled everywhere?
There’s another story about a guy making a bit of a road trip. He was in a fairly dangerous area where the road got very narrow and was mugged and beaten and left for dead. Two different people passed the guy, and at least one of them was clergy! It wasn’t until a 3rd man passed before the victim was helped.
Now not many people encounter someone in such helpless and desperate need, but how much does it take to shake us out of our safe spaces?
Every time I pick up a camera my heart starts pounding and my palms get sweaty. I get insanely anxious. I’m shooting bridals for my sister-in-law this weekend, and I will probably be just as nervous and panicked as ever. I think I get nervous because I know that to be a good photographer takes a lot of guts and stepping out taking risks. It’s down right terrifying sometimes, and I know there are images I didn’t pursue because I was scared. But that’s also what I like about photographing. I get challenged by it, all the time, to make images that are interesting or challenging or beautiful in unexpected ways. I crave that challenge and that’s why I think I’ll always photograph.
But I am also aware that one day I could end up hiding behind my camera because I’ll be playing it safe. I don’t know when that point will happen. That challenge to step out will probably come several times throughout my life, as will the challenge to hold back. Sometimes we need to be brave and speak up and step up. Then sometimes we need to keep our mouths shut and just listen to what’s going on around us- sometimes I’ll need to put the camera down.
I think being able to tell the difference will take some discernment, but I just want to encourage anyone else having to take the same risks, that it’s worth it. Sometimes we have to do the opposite of what our instincts (or our pride) are telling us. Sometimes you have to give up in order to win.