She reached out with a concept in mind: A visual representation of the ways she feels damaged. It was an idea that I was interested in exploring as well for my own reasons. Having worked together before, it became a simple matter of arranging a time. As we discussed what she wished to shoot further, we found common ground.
We are all damaged in some way. My personal trials and tribulations are relatively benign. Well, they are to many people. To me, they cut deep. Perhaps deeper than I, myself, understand.
Photographers traditionally seek to find a connection to their subject, to put them at ease. In this way, a more natural demeanor can be obtained. I often find this difficult for reasons I can not always explain. Sometimes, I simply feel awkward or overwhelmed by the situation. At others, my confidence has flagged and I am worried that I will be unable to deliver my best work. In some cases, I allow the expectation of familiarity to overwhelm me.
As I worked with this model on her concept, I was in my usual frame of mind behind the camera. The execution is first and foremost. Lighting, posing, and composition are my masters, saving me from awkward pauses. I am in what some have called my, “too professional” mode. I should be more myself. To do so, however, might reveal just how damaged I am.
This model and I have known each other for long enough that there is a bit of history. The shared memories should make it easier but, as always, I feel as though I walk a fine line on thin ice. If she wants to share, I will listen. If she wants my opinion, I will offer it.
Today we work with powerful words. The session goes well and we are achieving our goals. At times like this, when my social skills tend to lock up, I feel damaged beyond repair. Looking through the resulting images, I can’t help but see how often she smiles. It helps me realize that what has damaged me has prepared me to be exactly who I am today.