May 03, 2010

Introvert Advantage?

Another good prop [to facilitate socializing] is a camera. Very often it’s the people who are snapping pictures at social gatherings who feel the most awkward.
-Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., The Introvert Advantage; bracketed words are mine
The situation was already awkward when I arrived at Freedom Clothing Collective to photograph their sixth anniversary party. Not only was I the first guest, but I couldn’t properly engage the staff who were already present. Despite cracking one joke pertaining to a “black mannequin,” I seemed to have left my social skills at home.

When the first set of guests came in, this state of affairs changed from bad to worse; I became keenly aware of being alone in an expanding sea of strangers. This self-consciousness was similar to what struck me when I was at the Queen West Lululemon earlier this year, but this time around, it was debilitating. Instead of acting out, I froze and sulked at the implicit rejection of cliquesters who were too haute-blooded to reach out to people beyond their collective noses. I was also crippled by the possibility of explicit rejection resulting from introducing myself or taking photographs, since these actions would have made me stand out. It seemed as if my only option was to disappear by doing nothing; in any case, disappearing would have been better than putting up with reminders of my inability to fit in…once again.

My perception of this situation was so bad, in fact, that I considered erasing the few photos I did take, packing up my camera gear and returning home. I even turned off my camera a few times and replaced the lens cap in hopes of suddenly finding the courage to make an exit. If it wasn’t for Freedom curator Marsya Maharani asking me to take a photo, this escape would have become a reality instead of remaining a wish.

Shortly after taking this photo (which, ironically, was taken close to the store’s exit), I decided that I’d had enough of self-pity caused by my distorted discernment of a relatively minor situation. The comeback process was by no means instant nor easy, but it started with me making my way to the front of the audience and photographing Chère Françoise’s concert. By the time Abigail Lapell finished her set, I was back where I mentally needed to be.

A set of fourteen photos is by no means a record haul (although I don’t judge a shoot’s success by quantity anymore), but it’s better than leaving with nothing.

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