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By Jill Greenwood

I’ll be honest with you (kinda a policy of mine); when I first got my first “proper” camera, I bought it because school got out for the summer. My sister and I had recently started blogging, and I was looking for a way to take better photos. So I bought a D40 and started snapping. I’d take a photo of a sock in progress and be mesmerized by the shot. And then spend the next two months trying to figure out what I’d done. When Jordan’s prom rolled around the next spring, I messed up half the photos when I forgot how to move the focus selection. Nothing like having great light with your beautiful daughter standing in front of you only to figure out later that she’s blurry as shit, but damn does that fence look stunningly focused.

But how to fix this problem. Why, I know! Just take photos. Take the damn camera out and depress the shutter. I’d take the camera to the back deck. Fool around with the settings. But the thought of taking a photo in public scared the living daylights out of me because I was afraid what people would say. Being painfully shy had a lot to do with it. Here’s where most people will laugh. “You? SHY?! What are you smoking?” most of my friends would say. “But you’ll talk to anybody . . . how do you figure you’re shy?” Because I am.

If you know me, then you probably won’t get me to shut up if we’re out in small groups. But put me in a group of five or more, and I’ll figure out how to make a quick and quiet exit. And if I can’t exit, I’ll either knit or drink. Sometimes both – again, that honesty policy. It can take me weeks or months – fine, years – for me to feel comfortable enough to let my guard down. Until that happens, I come off as bitchy. Evasive. Aloof. Pick an adjective that means vaguely douchey or slightly awkward and that’s probably been said about me. If I’m going to take a photo of something public, I’m much more likely to find a notebook or a coffee mug or my reflection in a window.

So, why then would I join the 100 Strangers project on Flickr*? Why would a person who took close to nine months to have a conversation with someone who worked a few doors down from her try to take photos of random strangers? Well, I don’t really know. Something about it made sense. Find someone out in public and begin a conversation with them. Thank god there’s no official time limit on this project because I’m taking my sweet time with it. But yesterday was a good day for me. I found a stranger, and I asked him if I could take his photo for a project I was working on. I engaged in semi-intelligent conversation about his job. And I think I did a decent job with it.

I’m not saying that photography has “cured” my shyness, but it’s certainly made it easier for me to make conversation with people. Granted, three-quarters of it is still awkward, but it’s conversation. Sometimes people will see what I’m focused on, and they’ll ask a question about it. Occasionally, they’ll tell me I can’t take photos of something. But usually it leads to some nice pleasantries exchanged. Or suggestions for the next place to explore.

Four strangers down . . . 96 more to go.

*Oh, Flickr, I miss you. I really, really, really do. Haven’t uploaded anything in almost three months. I need to change this soonish.

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  1. November 29, 2012

    yes get your arse back to flickr lady! 😉 bravo brave you! i have considered this project and then completely chickened out each and every time. i will be cheering you on for sure.

    • Jill #
      November 29, 2012

      I just have to figure out “how” to get back on Flickr . . . but I’ll get there soon 🙂

  2. damiec #
    November 29, 2012

    I don’t greet the world with a wide opened countenance either, and I’m pretty sure aloof is one of the kinder ways I’ve been described by new acquaintances. So I am especially impressed that you are doing the strangers project. I think this shot is terrific! I haven’t had too much time for flickr either lately, but when i do go there no one seems to be home. I miss it. Start a trend and come back 🙂

    • Jill #
      November 29, 2012

      I think I spent so much time trying to figure out how to tag my photos that it took too much time to do it. But I’ll get back into the swing of things. Thanks for the compliment on the photo 🙂

  3. November 29, 2012

    What a great pic of him and you!

  4. November 29, 2012

    Great capture, Jill! Can’t wait to see the rest of the project progress. And, um…you? Shy? I never would have thunk it!

    • Jill #
      November 29, 2012

      Super shy . . . takes me forever. I was fooling around with the f-stops and the ISOs a lot on this trip, so I’m hoping for 10 shots that don’t look, “Meh.”

  5. Bryan Lewis #
    November 29, 2012

    I often thought about going up to strangers and asking to capture their mug. Yet, I still procrastinate. I don’t know if it is shyness or just feeling uncomfortable about asking people but I do know from many different blogs it adds flavor to ones portfolio (If done correctly). I am new around your part but I do enjoy your photos.

    • Jill #
      November 29, 2012

      I took over a year between the first and the second “strangers,” but I’m glad that I tried it.

  6. Jenn #
    November 30, 2012

    I love my photography but a big attraction of it for me is being able to ‘hide’ behind the camera. I suffer from anxiety & panic disorders so the thought of asking a stranger to pose for me fills me with fear. Well done you 🙂

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