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How to Work With the People You Want To

How to Work With the People You Want To

In a recent discussion with a friend over coffee, I was asked how it is that I gain access to photograph so many different people, specifically about the portraits that I have set up for some of my personal projects regarding artists and craftspeople. Some of these images require quite a bit of setup and a significant contribution in time and skill from the subjects of the photographs themselves. The answer to this question was quite simple: I ask.

Photography Opening Doors

If there is one thing I have really noticed over my years of working with a camera, it is the doors that the camera can open for you. Not only has this tool given me professional access to places such as Seoul's Blue House and time with people I thought well above my social station, it has given me a reason to walk myself through seemingly closed doors and to approach people I would never have approached.

This is not to say I am lacking an interest in people. Nothing could be further from the truth. People fascinate me. However, I am a shy and reserved person, to say the least. I would sooner sip a cup of tea and read a book for fear of having to meet a stranger. Nonetheless, I am intrigued by other humans and love to photograph them how I see them. The camera becomes an excuse, a driving factor. For me, the camera has bridged the gap and allowed me to meet people I could not have without it.

Getting Past the Fear

"Nobody is going to die." My darkroom teacher, Seiyeon, likes to say this when you ask him if a certain technique may work. He's right, of course. It's just a piece of paper. If you want to know what will happen when you increase the strength of the magenta filter, try it. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that you'll learn something. It's just like that with approaching someone.

The first time I called Joonsoo, the Daegeum player below, I was terrified. I must have dialed the number ten times before I actually had the courage to let it ring. In the end, I thought to myself, "What's the worst that could happen?" I played out the options in my head. I had a straightforward question: "Would you be willing to give up some of your time for me to express how I see your art through photography?" The more observant of you (ie. those not clouded by fear) will notice that this is a polar question; it has only two possible outcomes. If he answers in the affirmative, I then have to thank him and organize a time and place. My project goes ahead. If he answers in the negative, I have to thank him for his time and find someone else to call. My project still goes ahead, but my pride is hurt. This will heal.

When This Matters

You may find yourself in this situation often as a creative. Whether you're creating for money or simply for the love of creating, at some point, you will probably need to ask someone for something. This can be hard, especially when you're starting and trying to make art that is beyond what you have made before. It may take you hours, days, or weeks to work up the courage to make that call. Pick up the phone, cold-call the client, ask for a collaboration, see if there's any work for you, reach out to your photographic heroes. It will feel a little like asking that first girl or guy out on a date. Anxiety may take hold, but take a step back and ask yourself that same question: What's the worst that could happen?

Dylan Goldby's picture

Dylan Goldby is an Aussie photographer living and working in South Korea. He shoots a mix of families, especially the adoptive community, and pre-weddings. His passions include travel, good food and drink, and time away from all things electronic.

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Nice Post :) I see me also in this Points and after i realize that the only think can happens when i ask somebody is to say "No Sorry" i start to work with a lot of nice and interesting People. Photography also help me opened more and start to have contact with other People.

What a great, inspirational article.

Well written. Inspirational! Thank you Dylan.

Thanks for sharing this Dylan , know the feeling all too well.

This is how I got access recently to an abandoned 1950s bank!

Nice article. I've learned something from it.

Loved the article. But I loved the picture of the Joonsoo more. I literally sat there for the first 5 minutes admiring how great the picture is, and then spent the next 10 minutes dissecting how you might have shot it. Well done, mate. - A fellow Aussie.