Blog

Scared of your own Shadow

A sunny winter's day in Melbourne tempted me out of the office during lunchtime on Monday, and by walking briskly with up-tempo music playing on my iPhone, I was able to keep warm. As I rounded a corner I came very close to stepping on this praying mantis, which would have been a big surprise for both of us.

Experience has taught me to always capture unusual scenes or subjects when the chance arises, and that the best camera is the one you have with you. While trying to get the iPhone 'close-but-not-too-close' to take the picture, I noticed the mantis swaying it's body, presumably trying to emulate foliage blowing in the wind. It got me thinking about yesterday's blog-post, and how strategies that have served you well for your whole life can suddenly become terminally ineffective: it doesn't matter how convincingly you sway under the sole of a size 10 shoe.

I was also captivated by the threatening, alien-like shadow the creature was casting in the sun. A flash of anthropomorphism crossed my mind, and I imagined that the mantis was actually quivering with fear, unable to flee from the dark horror at his feet.

This can happen to any of us. We stay fixed in place, maintaining well-practised roles and behaviours, convinced that this will keep us safe from the big, scary world. The thought of publishing our more experimental photos on-line, or attempting to express our ideas in a publicly-accessible blog can be too overwhelming for us to give it a go. We will do anything - or indeed nothing - to avoid the shadow of scrutiny that this might bring.

A couple of weeks ago on episode 366 of the podcast "This Week in Photo", guest Valerie Jardin made a comment (@1h:21m) about her career path that I found compelling:

"I think you need to make things happen for yourself... there is no 'do-over' at the end. You've got to live your dream now... and it's not going to be in 5 years or in 10 years. You've got to do it now, and if it works, it works; if it doesn't work? Well then, at least I tried".

From my previous posts, you know that I wouldn't advocate taking an ill-considered "leap of faith", throwing in your job to pursue your passion. However, Valerie makes very good points about it being up to you to make things happen, and about not leaving it until it's too late. 

Perhaps you will be like me, starting tentatively. You take into account the potential consequences of putting your work "out there", at the same time trying not to blow the imaginary ones out of proportion. You don't have to do anything crazy, but if you can, you should do something while you still have the opportunity. Remember, "there is no 'do-over' at the end".