P.J. Fleck, head football coach of University of Minnesota, shared this quote yesterday talking to group that I was covering.
This made me want to look at more of Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s quotes. But before I share those, there is one more thing I try to do when I study someone.
I look at their environment and circumstances. Roosevelt lived from 1858 to 1919. That period of time was difficult to navigate. He is considered one of the top five presidents of the United States.
His mother was Martha Stewart (Bulloch) “Mittie” Roosevelt. She would marry Theodore Roosevelt senior in Roswell, Georgia where I live now.
If you are like me and everyone else going through this pandemic you have had to endure some challenges.
Every time I get a new camera or piece of new gear I make a lot of mistakes. Just yesterday I couldn’t get my Nikon Z9 to focus. The problem was I had to have that photo. It was of the keynote speaker and the head of the organization that invited him to speak.
I was not just frustrated in the moment, but feeling shame. I switched to my Nikon Z6, but had it on the wrong setting and underexposed the photo too much to be usable.
I just kept on pushing myself and I solved my problem. It was a crisis. What motivated me in the moment was fear. I was so scared about ruining my reputation. I must deliver the photos and the best I can do in that moment.
Now over the years I have discovered that while I do have an aptitude for the technical that this alone is not enough to succeed. I have found that people need to feel save with you. They need to trust you. Clients are putting their lives into my hands when they hire me to photograph or video something for them.
While teaching the art of storytelling I had a revelation. I even said this before I truly realized how true it is in telling someone’s story.
“Forget the camera right now. See how we are sitting beside each other?” I said to a few students. Then I would move my chair a few feet from them. “Which feels more intimate?” You need to start by talking with the person I said. Then it is much easier to start with your wide angle lens to capture them up close and intimate.
While I was talking about this concept with a student, I had the “Ah Ha Moment”.
“Talk your way in and then shoot your way out,” was coming out of my mouth. I wish I had thought of saying it this way many years ago.
I explained the benefits of this process.
First, I watched many students spend time shooting and then when they asked for their names the people didn’t want to help them. Had they started with talking first then they would have saved a lot of time.
You introduce yourself and tell them you want to make their photos and would they mind.
Second, by taking some time to listen to the person and exploring their story you could look for opportunities that might work much better visually than text alone would.
Not talking to someone and shooting before you get their information can have you treating them as objects and not human if you are not careful. Talking to them helps avoid this problem.
Third, now that you have been talking it is easier to pull out the widest lens and make some photos up close. You are sitting or standing next to them.
Once you have spent some time getting to know someone it is much easier to build a shot list in your head or write it down if you need.
What is more important that your gear or your ability to connect with people is your understanding of your purpose. You need to know your own gifts and talents. You need to develop those gifts and use them in service of others.
In this time of turmoil, spend some time in self reflection.
Coach P.J. Fleck introduced me to another way to think of family. The way to build a family is through this acronym of Family: Forget About Me I Love You
After understanding more about yourself and your character, then look for how to bless others with your gifts.
My new camera the Nikon Z9 requires me to read the manual and test it out so that I can discover what it can do to help others in telling their stories.