When I talk to unfamiliar people, my internal dictionary loses half of its pages and I can feel my mind going numb. I become hyper-conscious of the words I choose and the movements of my body. My hands begin to get clammy and fidgety, and they seem like foreign objects, out of place; forming proper sentences takes so much effort because words just sound like noises.
I recall being especially frustrated when I had my first portraiture project. I already envisioned the poses that needed to be done and the person I wanted to photograph, but there was one problem — she was just an acquaintance. I prefer not to initiate conversations with someone I’m not comfortable with, but in this situation, the drive to get the shot was stronger than my fears (it helped being a perfectionist too). Eventually, I mustered up the courage and managed to blurt out a few sentences asking her to help me.
The challenge didn’t end there. During the shoot, there were others watching in the shared studio space, scrutinizing my every move. My model clearly saw my fidgety hands and started to doubt me. She began to question my direction and poses. Since I lacked confidence and assertiveness, I conformed to her scrutiny and didn’t go through with those poses. As well, I didn’t explore all the shots I wanted to take because I didn’t want to burden her time.
After having done numerous shoots, photography unexpectedly became a way to challenge my shy self. It is becoming a comfortable medium to meet new people. Conversations from photo shoots develop organically around the shoot, and with my mind focused somewhere else, my self-consciousness subsides (it also helps that I have a camera in front of my face so less direct eye contact!). As well, photo shoots gives me a peace of mind because if there are silences in conversations during a shoot, it is interpreted as a period of concentration rather than an awkward silence. I don’t feel pressure to keep the conversations alive. From all the times I faked appearing confident to gain the models and clients trust, I actually started to become confident (fake it til you make it, I guess).
I eventually want to further push myself and instead of being the photographer, I want to be someone’s model. I want to become comfortable with someone taking a photograph of my face. Hopefully, this will help reduce my anxieties around being the centre of attention and being vulnerable with my physical insecurities. Shyness will be a lifelong project but it’s closer to being completed, one shoot at a time.
Soojin Kim is Graphic Designer based in Toronto. She has an unhealthy obsession with tomato sauce and says sorry way too much. Follow her on Instagram to see more of her work!