Having the confidence to get the shot you want is a challenge, and it can potentially be also considered an art and a skill. I used to lack confidence and I was well aware that I needed to address that. I’d spent most of my life growing up and wanting to be the leader, yearning to have the confidence to be the one centre stage who can stand up and make a noise without instantly flushing red and cowering away relenting such a decision to put myself out there, and then it hit me. Being confident can be emulated. Being confident is all about how you present yourself. If you portray yourself as a person with confidence you will then become confident and train true confidence. Easy, right? Well no, I’m aware that I’ve simplified a complex set of variables into such a simple phrase, but trust me on it, I’m right. If you act with confidence you appear confident. If you appear confident you impress your audience. If you impress your audience you impress yourself, a la Batari’s Box. And if you impress yourself you’ll gain confidence. Simple! So what did I do? Well while I was going through the tail end of my education I took courses and jobs where I was forced to be a leader. I was in fact a sports leader and took classes for kids. I was in schools at break times and after school teaching the kids new games, deviating from the regular football or basketball that they played by default out of habit and taught them new things. Leader based games, leaderless games, mentally demanding games, and more relevant to what was going on in my head I taught them things where I challenged myself in organising them, explaining the systems and rules with confidence, demonstrating, and following through with executing what is taught. This developed further when I worked in a gym and employed similar tactics with classes for the kids clubs (which gained me a qualification I’ve not used since, I’m an MTV dance instructor and have the certificate to prove it) and took a leap into the extremely rewarding challenge of teaching the same things to autistic children. So after this world ended for me and I moved on it was time to continue developing myself and I had to find a way to do it. I have a keen interest in aviation and so one step was to use my knowledge in situations where I had no choice but to present with confidence, imparting my knowledge in such a way that it was understood and believed. I began to teach it. I offered myself up to my local Air Cadet squadron and told them my qualifications and explained that I’d gladly come and help them out. So there I was, in a new part of the world that I wasn’t familiar with, and I was now spending 2 evenings a week teaching 13-19 year olds how planes work. I realise I’m getting a little deep into the story of Hybrid Dave now but the point is that I used to quake under the mental strain of merely thinking about standing up and making myself heard in front of a group of faces staring at me, all eyes pierced and focuses intently. That feeling was strenuous, but I realised quickly upon failure that those piercing eyes needed to remain pierced or I will have lost the battle. The very thing that scared me was actually the thing I needed to keep. So backtracking slightly, it’s through faking confidence that I gained actual confidence, and throughout this journey I’ve gone from a wreck when it came to any form of public speaking to someone who is now the training officer at that very Air Cadet squadron, and someone who has absolutely no problem standing up in front of people in any situation and having any input I can. Leading photowalks, teaching the skills I’ve acquired, approaching strangers, it’s all good. And it’s the approaching strangers aspect that this piece is centred around.
So, a couple of years ago I set out on a little photo project whereby I wanted to work on several things. I wanted to be able to direct models better. I wanted to be able to interact with models better, and those modes needed to be strangers with no prior cohesion or rapport. I wanted to be able to talk to strangers better and have them trust me enough to reveal things about themselves after nothing more than a brief chat. So I set about my project and I entitled it, ‘The Cast Of London.’
My idea was straight forward. Go find people and talk to them, working my hardest to come away with a photo and some words from them. Here’s one:
‘This is Hybrid Dave, a 28 year old photographer. “When I was younger I wanted to be a pilot. I love to fly and I’m fascinated with anything to do with flight. I’m happy with what I do now though, I have no regrets. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say don’t allow your happiness to rely upon anyone else, and make sure your actions are complimentary to who you are. I ended up where I am by having an expensive hobby! Photography is associated with expensive kit, so the logical way to fund it was to profit from it. I got out to practice and gain experience and find out exactly what I liked the most about it. I threw myself out there for free to build my portfolio and attain contacts and credibility, then turned it into a profiting business. And I love it! My favourite quote is this – aut viam inveniam aut faciam nihil obstat. It’s Latin and it means either find a way or make one, let nothing stand in the way.’”
Ok, so that’s me, but before I share some others I’ll explain how I got the text. There are 4 question which I sat and carefully thought about. They’re a mixture of open and closed questions and they can be answered differently based upon the thought put in by the person receiving them. Here they are. Feel free to give me your answer to them!
1. Finish this sentence:- ‘when I was younger I….’
2. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say….
3. How did you get here?
4. What is your favourite quote?
So here’s the deal. Staring at the bottom, everyone has a favourite quote! I don’t care what you say, you do. It could be something from a movie, a line from a song, a little proverbial piece of wisdom that’s stayed with you, anything, but everyone always has one. Moving up the list to number 3, it can be perceived literally or figuratively, leading to a response of anything from one word to a thousand. You could tell me that you walked here, or you could give me your life story, and the response would be determined by how open the respondent is as a person and how well I presented to them when I approached them in the street not too dissimilarly to the way a charity promoter catches people going about their business and has the challenge of being engaging within the first couple of seconds. Question 1 isn’t too far off from question 3 and can potentially reveal a dram or desire they had when they were younger or it could be as simple as ‘I was happy’, so again it is dependant on how I present and whether I’ve gained enough of their trust to tell me something on the borderline of intimacy. Question number 2 is a simple question about life which allows them to recover from the potential shock they received in question 2 and allows them to access a different part of their mind to retrieve a memory rather than on the spot thinking about opinion. So that’s the questions, and they were cunningly constructed to allow me to see if I was doing ok!
‘This is Zak – a 31 year old teacher seeking a job
“When I was younger I dreamt of going to university. I went twice! I went undergraduate then postgraduate to be a teacher. It took me 2 years in between to decide! If I met my 18 year old self I’d definitely say not to wear my heart on my sleeves. Not to be as trusting as I was when I was 18. If I had to put that into words.. Just because somebody’s nice to you it doesn’t mean they like you. Jobs, dates, everything. Isn’t life a game. No matter how much you think you know at the beginning, how much knowledge you have, you haven’t got it all. My favourite quote… I’m gonna go for something common I bet! You won’t get anything in life unless you ask. That’s put me on the spot! It could be better if I had time to think about it. I think in the current climate Manchester is great for family and friends but in London if I wanted to branch off into different things I could do that. There’s a lot more opportunity here, and a lot more money! In Manchester I need a lot more patience, Things will happen but not at the speed I want them to.”’
The explanation in the previous paragraph is all about the questions I asked, and I realise this post is entitled ‘creative confidence’ so I’ll get back on track! I want those of you who feel that you lack confidence and feel like it’s negatively affecting your creativity to get out there and hide behind a confident mask. A veil of confidence and perhaps an emulation of my project to assist you. As I said, if you act confident then you will be confident. Get out there with your camera and notepad and find some strangers, get chatting to them, and ask them to take their photo. For someone to allow that, and to further allow themselves to be directed by a total stranger in the street is a big deal but looking back at the record I kept regarding my successes to my failures, I had about two thirds success and that blows me away when I think about how much I consciously lacked confidence in myself. I urge you to push your limits, to get that mask up, and to get out there and develop yourself. Here are some more of the amazing people I met while I was boosting my creative confidence.
This is Martin – a 56 year old Art Director
“When I was younger I wanted to be a dancer. I didn’t confess it to my parents until it was too late. I did some ballet but was too late. I did some 10cc videos, they’re on YouTube. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say believe in yourself harder. Have more belief in yourself. My favourite quote… I’m just trying to remember how it goes. Can’t be my favourite if I can’t remember it! ‘Oh, Jerry don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars’ . It’s from Now, Voyager. I should have said ‘always look at the bright side of life’ – much easier! I got here with hard work and talent [Martin chuckles] And luck! I’m happy, I’m pretty lucky You’ve made my Thursday!”
This is Natalie – a 35 year old full time single mother.
“When I was younger I loved to dance. I still do! And I loved to study English. To my 18 year old self, what I really would have said is ‘wise up’. Really, now in hindsight I probably would have been less… what’s the word…. Almost naive. I would have been a bit wiser in the choices I made. I probably would have finished a few more of the courses I started. My favourite quote is ‘rather turn up late than ugly’. That is fickle though so probably ‘God is love’. How did I get here? Through the grace of evolution [mother at the next table says “Through me love, you forgot about me!”]”
This is Chez – a 32 year old personal shopper.
“When I was younger I listened to a lot of Kylie. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say ‘don’t be so cocky’. My favourite quote…. My heart is my alibi. I had to die to get here. I just went to the doctors because I got hit by a truck. I was going to die. Not depressing at all!”
This is Nadia – a 45 year old musician practicing positive drum infusion.
“When I was younger I wanted to play music. It’s a passion I have. I want to play music. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say keep going. Yeah. My favourite quote is by Gandhi. Be the change you want to see in the world. I love music. I have an adventurous spirit and I like to explore the world. I also perform in venues and I have a workshop. Whenever I’m free I come here. I love the river, the freedom and expression. The diversity and the magic of London. I just love the river and everything it has to offer. You can be on your own and still connect. You don’t need to watch TV or go to the cinema, it’s right here. It’s good to be alive.”
This is Charlie – a 31 year old builder.
“When I was younger I wanted to be famous. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say buy gold! My favourite quote is ‘no guts, no glory’, it’s on my back, a massive tattoo. And ‘no pain no gain’. I’ve got a space left for that. How did I get here? That could be anything, couldn’t it. Funny enough I got here by things going wrong but by better things coming out of it. I lost a job, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that.”
This is Amy – a 28 year old project management assistant
“When I was younger I was naughty. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say drink less and don’t smoke. That’s such a boring answer! My favourite quote? I don’t really have one. You’ve caught me on a really bad day! I’d say everything happens for a reason. How did I get here? Hard work brought me here.”
And saving my favourite until last, here’s Lachie Chapman. Yes, I bumped into Lachie from The Overtones and he agreed to be involved in my little project!
This is Lachie – a 33 year old singer
“When I was younger I wanted to do pretty much what I’m doing right now actually. I wanted to move to London. I did that 8 years ago. I got a one way ticket and left on my 25th birthday. My friend Jules in Sydney gave me a £2 coin and because I’m a whore for a good coffee, she said go to Bar Italia. I landed and this was the first place I visited. I took out that £2 coin and this was the first thing I did. I find it quite serendipitous that a guy sits down and asks me what I wanted to do when I was younger. If I met my 18 year old self I’d say crack on! My favourite quote – it’s the Winnie the Pooh one. No. The Winnie the Pooh one would have been…. it says, ‘What day is it today Piglet? Today is my favourite day.’ That’s a mis-quote. The quote I’m going to say is from a poem by Charles Bokowski called The Laughing Heart. I encourage everyone to read it. To have a look. My favourite line is ‘Be on the watch.’ How did I get here? Short answer – Qantas 747-400. Long answer – Stardust.”
Much love x