Growing up as the baby in the family, I was a picky eater and generally quiet. I never fought with anyone; but, I did hear many intense discussions. I did exactly what I was told to do--to stay under the radar with teachers and the school bullies. As my father foretold, in high school I suddenly grew from the runt to the second tallest in the family. That's when I noticed the world change. I was treated with a greater degree of respect. My name changed from Timmy to Tim overnight. I noticed smiles from girls and a pause from the thugs in my school. This could be interesting. Might there be a happy future?
I always enjoyed the arts and expanded into singing and acting throughout high school. Those girls I mentioned, turned into dates and dinners. Not wanting to upset my positive trajectory, I smiled and said, "yes, I would love some broccoli and some cauliflower!" This opened even more worlds to me in the forms of foods, techniques, cultures, and even a few jobs in the field. I studied music, theatre, and computers in college. Which led me to a long stint with the Hyatt in the service industry.
Let me get to my point as I jump forward to a shift in my career. I went to work for an appliance company in another state. I knew no one and the culture was different to say the least. I made a fresh pasta dish to share with my coworkers. Most never had fresh pasta-much less spinach pasta. The dish was getting me rave reviews until the husband of a secretary came in to pick her up. He was offered a plate of food. He didn't know me and was wondering why a guy would cook. His wife said it was good and he should taste it. That's when he looked at his plate and wanted to know why the pasta was green. Explaining the pasta was fresh, very tender, and made with fresh spinach-hence the green, I assured him the taste was not overly spinach and the sauce was typical--meat based. He dropped the plate, refused to eat or taste the food, took his wife's and forbid her to eat as well. His comment was pasta is not green! Many put their plates down.
What does this have to do with Photography? It has to do with perceptions. I was angry he wouldn't even try. I would have understood if he said he didn't like the dish. Taste it!!! Perhaps too rich, too little garlic, sensitive to tomatoes...but to shut me out because it was the wrong color??? We do see things-images through our eyes and our culture. The look of that girl smiling may invite a conversation. The applause will let you know the quality of your performance. And the green eggs may indicate spoilage. Most dogs like me but if growling.... The way we are perceived and the way we perceive others, will have an effect on our experiences. And yet, it is the differences that make us interesting.
I love the little things and I ask a lot of questions. Have you seen the cool table with the hidden drawer...the switch in the rented car that warms the seat...the twist of lime on the cantaloupe right before serving...why does that woman look good with long hair and the other looks good with short? Or, as a wedding photographer, the difference and importance in the Protestant wedding vs. an ethnic family wedding. Why are certain foods cooked that way? Why does the Bride wear the dress she does? Is this toast fun or significant? Can I photograph the couple in the church? Can I move that candle if I put it back? Traditions remind us of our past, our personal family, and our heritage. The differences in people, things, life are very interesting to me. I may not enjoy the coffee prepared your way but, I am eager to know and understand why it is that way.
Now I confess, most of my life has been...easy...no not easy...but, not stacked against me. I was the runt shy kid, so I never got into sports. I do love hiking and racquetball, but not just to win. When I got into photography, I was surprised everyone did not see the world through my eyes. And when I approach a client, I remind myself to be sensitive to their needs. I want them to feel at ease and confident in their session. This may require adjustments in my approach, demeanor, a female assistant, and sometimes, a translator. So.... This is a time for all of us to communicate, listen, and try to improve our now. A fashion model dressing for a layout understands what the shoot will be...a child in elementary school may not. Approaching a mom in the park and asking to photograph her beautiful daughter may bring thoughts of a portfolio...or a creepy old man. The street performer in full costume will be a great prop for your travel photos...or a way to earn a living for the performer.
So let us take a moment. Are we all different in some ways, yes. Are we the same too, yes. When I am going to possibly be perceived incorrectly, I have business cards with me, I try to over compensate, and find a way to communicate. If I am taking you the wrong way, talk to me. If as a society we are ignorant of those around us, we should discuss the issues. I am ignorant of many things I have not experiences yet. So I may ask questions as to why? It's not wrong...it's a way for me to learn. There are a few foods I have tried and now don't eat. I'm not sure if I would eat things from reality shows but I do enjoy sushi. Growing up in my family, the men all had short hair and clean shaven. My hair is long and I have a beard. My brother always had a sports car of sorts. Now he has a truck. We are a people of traditions and of change. Let's keep the dialogue, hearts, and minds open as we continue our journey. I for one, need you.