Confidence from photos

This morning, I again found myself outside taking photos of a friend. Despite my excitement about the freedom of photography, I wondered what I could learn from another photo session.

The Greene Team ventured out to the Stony Brook campus paired in small groups, and I found myself partnered with Maya Ratner. Maya and I explored with the same group of friends yesterday, and I remembered her reluctance to star in photographs. Still, I was first to pick up my camera. At my suggestion, she sat on one bench in a row of many, comfortable and relaxed. Her ease showed in pictures. As we continued to different locations, I realized that she was an excellent model — she never looked stiff and always worked with me so I could capture exactly what I wanted. By the time we moved on, I knew I captured beautiful pictures of her.

I’ve been uncomfortable in photos for years now, and every time someone offers to take some of me I decline. In group photos, I often shuffle out of frame — when I can’t, I try to hide behind the group. In most photos taken of me, I’m uncomfortable, and it shows. Looking at my stiff awkwardness in pictures discourages me from being in photos at all, although I don’t lack confidence. But when Maya began taking photos of me today, I felt comfortable. I didn’t overthink, and Maya’s creativity helped me focus on the fun of photographic independence.

We walked back to the classroom after some time, and I showed Maya the photos I took. Her reaction was uplifting; she saw how good she looked in them and lit up. I remembered how just yesterday, Maya was reluctant to be in photographs, but today, she was happy to see herself in them. I realized then the power of photographs on confidence.

On a classroom computer, Maya and I scrolled through the pictures she took of me, and I was impressed. Whether I was standing between trees or in the middle of three walls, Maya took creative photos and she was able to wordlessly encourage me.

This morning’s in-class lesson revolved around photographic composition. Around the Stony Brook campus, students had the freedom to take portrait photos of their friends. Beyond the surface, though, I learned how photographs can uplift the subject. I’m hoping that in the future, I’ll keep this in mind and honor the model.

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