(All photos in the gallery above are of people I never would have met if it weren't for photography and makeup, and breaking out of my comfort zone).
I've been on some studio shoots recently doing makeup, and shooting a few editorials for the fall issue of Liner, and there are a lot of really vibrant, uninhibited, creative people I've been working with. Lots of extroverts around! In the midst of this action, I recently got a really sweet email that made me cry from someone I've worked with who told me I inspired her to start her business with starting my magazine. I get told this sometimes, which is so heartbreakingly nice to hear that I'm always humbled, and always cry. What was really touching about this encounter, though, was that she said she was an introvert, and she never felt like she had the 'personality' to make her business go anywhere. But, she took the leap anyway and found that being introverted is actually pretty great when it comes to owning a business and being creative with other people. Introverts don't usually speak out about being introverts...because it's hard for us and also because it's kind of a hypocritical action to say you're an introvert and then write a blog post about it for strangers to read. But, we exist! We're out there in the world and I think it's time people stopped putting so much pressure on others to be outspoken and outgoing. There's something to be said for the introvert sharing his/her experience, because there's a lot of us out there living our version of that same experience. The thinking of a lot of people is, if I can't see your personality, it must not exist. What a sad way to look at people!
It's gotten me thinking about my journey and how much play being an extrovert has in our society. You really don't have to be outgoing to be creative, or successful, as I've found out in my own experience. We get a lot of mixed messages about what having a 'good' personality means. We hear that you have to make friends easily, be super social to get anywhere in life, and then in our idea of artists, they're either zany ravers living in a factory or depressed and tortured drug addicts. I think I've never really felt comfortable with the term 'artist' when people describe me that way, because I'm a girl who grew up in rural Nevada...'artist' just rings of pretension to me and also undertones of a Kurt Cobain figure lurking in the shadows, weighed down by the heft of life. While I love Nirvana as much as the next 90's kid, I'm one of the happiest people I know--super optimistic--and I end up meeting new people on pretty much a constant basis. But, I'm not an extrovert. Why do we have to think of people in this rigid way? See, I'm even guilty of it! And there are a lot of us introverts out there. So, this is just a little personal story that will maybe help someone who doesn't think they have a 'personality' to make their thing happen!
I have never been an outspoken person, really. I was the nerd in high school who would use my breaks to sit in on the AP English classes of the upperclassmen because I actually enjoyed thinking about existentialism and reading their homework on top of my own. I was not going to keggers and being the 'life of the party'. I've pretty much always been this way. I like personal time and while I love meeting up with friends, I think the big difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that we need to recharge after being with people, where extroverts actually feel pumped after hanging out with people. Don't get me wrong--I love meeting new people and being with my loved ones beyond belief. In fact, I'd say us introverts are maybe more 'in the moment' in our social encounters and really present with the people we care about because we're listening and absorbing the situation, asking questions. We're not thinking about the next joke to make or witty thing to say. Which is maybe why it's kind of overwhelming sometimes for us to be in social situations for long periods of time--we're fully engaged, 100% of the conversation.
I had a professor once in college who said I 'acted like a mouse' in class and that he was surprised my projects were 'so full of energy'. It felt really good to win the school film festival that semester and show him and especially myself that you don't have to be a boisterous presence to succeed. Even though I almost ran away when I found out I had to go on the stage to accept my award in front of 400 people, I pushed myself to do it even though I was shaking. From that moment on, I kind of carried that information with me and let it motivate me. My personality is on the inside, not on the outside. And that's kind of cool.
In the wake of that new ideology, in college when I was getting really into processing my own film and thinking more about the style I was developing, I challenged myself to go up to strangers and ask to take their photos and interview them. I would wander around Logan Square in Chicago and just stop people who interested me and shoot a roll or two of film. I was always surprised at how personal and freeing those situations were, and how the people really wanted to connect and be in a somewhat vulnerable position. I started a little blog and kind of kept a running photo-essay about these people I was meeting.
It was then that I understood the magic of photography for me--it allows you to get to know someone and showcase what it is about them that intrigues you, what makes them special and unusual. You can really show who someone is, without words. No conversation necessary. And you connect anyway. I was learning that when we did talk, the conversation naturally flowed and I didn't feel pressure, because I had my lens and I could listen to someone and take their photos while they told me their story. Capture their story on their face. I also found that I opened up more because the situation kind of put us in an equally vulnerable position, where they were opening up and I started to tell strangers about my experiences and ideas in a way that I don't usually with anyone outside of Paul and my family. (I actually think I knew Paul was the one for me on our first date when we sat for 5 hours just talking until they locked the coffee shop doors on us. A huge anomaly in my life!). It was pretty mind-blowing, and I knew that photography was what I wanted to do. That was it for me.
I've met so many amazing people through photography, makeup and collaborations over the years. And I think because of that connection of photographing someone, those people mean so much to me. I really owe them so much for willing to be in front of a camera, trusting me to capture them in the right way. Even though I'm a fast shooter and work quickly with makeup as well, those short sessions end up being some of the most inspiring, deep and great conversations I've had!
I think there's something to be said for the mouse. We see see things in a different way because we're not inserting ourselves into situations, but capturing them honestly and getting at the essence of who someone is. We're present and have a whole inner world going on that most people don't know about outside our closest friends and family. I've been freelancing photography and makeup for a few years now and I'm always surprised at the twists and turns. It's taken me to Melbourne, Australia, photographing an app developer walking in his garden, to Oregon trees shooting a high schooler learning about what she wants in the world. It's been a great adventure and I can't wait to learn more and see more. Collaborating with other people has become one of my top passions, and if you said that to me in middle school, I would have laughed in your face. But that's the way life goes. It's good being the mouse!