Confidence = Fake it until you make it

We all want to be more than just a shadow. We want to be seen. We want to be heard. Photo by Shandukani Mulaudzi

We all want to be more than just a shadow. We want to be seen. We want to be heard. Photo by Shandukani Mulaudzi

It’s difficult to blog everyday when your life becomes consumed by work. The past two weeks have been quite the ride and the best way to show I’m alive has been via my Instagram account. (Shamelss plug: Follow me on @ShanduMul).

I am so happy I decided to do this degree. It has been two weeks of rigorous work and I don’t believe I have ever been pushed out of my comfort zone like this. It’s funny, I posted on Facebook just the other day that we all think we want to be thrown out of our comfort zone until we actually are.

I always thought I was one for being thrown into the deep end, but I started swallowing gulps of water within minutes and I was sure I was about to drown. Sometimes I still feel that way but I kick and move my arms and stay afloat, avoiding going down again.

For photography we have had to walk into the streets and take photographs of strangers. Now, if I was hesitant of approaching people with just a microphone in my hand, a camera freaked me out to the point where I didn’t speak to a single person on the first day unless they asked me what I was doing. I think that day I realised that people are just as curious as I am. People are not as scary as they seem. People want to be heard. People want to have their stories shared with the world. People want to have conversations with strangers because although we are surrounded by millions of people – many of us are lonely. Although I find the camera to be very invasive in sensitive situations, I also think it requires a trust between the photographer and the person being photographed when permission is granted.

The second time I had to head out, the fear consumed me yet again. I felt a lump in my chest. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with my camera in hand but even though the bridge was packed, I didn’t speak to a single person. The fear of rejection was crippling me. I sat down on the bench to catch my breath and settle my mind. That’s when I met a beautiful couple who told me they were in New York on holiday and soon heading to Vegas to get married. They didn’t mind me taking pictures of them – in fact they were happy because then they could finally be in pictures together. Yet again I decided people were not as scary as they seemed. I left the bridge because I realised my assignment required me to be on a street block. Within two hours I managed to get all the shots I needed to get.  I met some beautiful people, some interesting people and others who only spoke a few words.

I think these assignments have given me a sense of freedom. I’m breaking out of my shell. I’m becoming less sensitive to people’s rejection and starting to embrace it as part of the process. When I stepped into an area called Washington Heights, I had my hands in my pockets and walked around like I knew where I was going. I decided my new motto will be “fake it until you make it”. I did it and I made it. I met some really great people and broke down the invisible barriers I had created. Barriers that only exist in my mind.

Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind Humans of New York (HONY), every single day he steps out into these streets that freak me out. He speaks to people from various backgrounds and he tells amazing stories. He captures intimate stories that people don’t just tell. He let’s people use their own voice and I think that’s what people appreciate most about what he does.

I want to tell people’s stories in their voices. For my photo essay I followed a man who was in and out of prison for short periods at a time. He was never arrested for his major crimes which include drug dealing, bank robberies and pimping. His criminal record was enough however, to stop him from having the same access as other people. In the U.S. having a record means keeping a job is near impossible. I cannot wait to share his story. It’s remarkable.

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