Asking was something I learned to do very early on when I started photographing. For someone who is actually fairly unsure of themselves and very self-concious this was an extremely difficult thing to do. It still is – whether I’m asking on a professional or personal level – asking basically makes you naked in front of the recipient. You are waiting for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and must be prepared for both.
With regards to my photography I’m finding it easier to ask … after all my livelihood doesn’t depend upon it. I don’t pay my bills with my photography, I simply enjoy myself and hopefully connect with new people. Probably because I’m fairly confident in my abilities as a photographer, I have lots and lots to learn still, but I know I am a fairly decent photographer.
On the personal level it’s much harder; it always will be. I spent so much time asking my ex for the truth, for honesty, for transparency but if I was faced with silence or lies, it made asking the next time much harder. Since I spent so much time before that relationship hiding my true self I made a promise: I would ask. Whatever the answer I would always ask. Sometimes it makes me come across as pushy or ‘forward’ but … as my students say … ‘YOLO Miss!’.
‘Will you …?’
‘Would you …?’
‘Can I …?’
‘Could you …?’
Sometimes I just wish people understood how hard it is for someone like me to ask. I live my life second-guessing every nuance of speech and text, which is a hard habit to break. I’m learning to but without that communication between those involved, how could I do anything but?
I’ve been having long conversations with a friend about this. He’s in an open marriage, something I find difficult to understand, but their relationship fascinates me. He said that without ‘asking’ they would never be happy. By asking permission from his partner, and vice-versa, they are really bloody happy. So why don’t more people ask? Why don’t more people answer honestly?
So why is this blog about asking?
Firstly I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art of Asking’. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve had an up and down relationship with Amanda Palmer. I fell in love with her music and her passion 8 years ago … then I fell out of love with her. But, Amanda, I’m sure you’ll be over-joyed to know this, but I’ve fallen back in love. Deeply. The Art of Asking is a beautiful book that, for women like me who lay themselves bare, allows and empowers. So firstly, this is a ‘thank-you’ to Amanda.
Secondly, I’ve found myself asking, asking, asking people for different things over the past few months. I’ve demanded time, shoulders to cry on, partners in crime, patience, help and friendship. I’ve not asked without giving though. I will always give more than I ask for.
Finally, it reminded me of the first time I ever asked to photograph a band.
I’d photographed The Dresden Dolls at The Roundhouse and wanted to see if I could photograph other bands so I went to The Dirty South in Lewisham to photograph a band my students were in. I turned up with my Minolta 5D, my kit lens and a few quid in my pocket to buy some Dutch courage.
I heard a band sound-checking and liked their energy.
I approached the guitarist at the bar after they’d finished and asked if I could photograph their set. He was very charming and said ‘of course’; and so I met James Fisher. So that conversation was my downfall. I was tied (in a good way) to the highs and lows of Officer Kicks for the next 4/5 years.
I found the photos I took that night earlier in the week … I thought I’d share them. They’re not great, after all this was before I knew about fast lenses and low lights. But I’m still proud of them – after all I would never have gotten them without asking.
I remember that Dirty South used this on their Myspace (oh those were the days!) for well over a year … the first photo I ever took of Jamie, I was just trying out the light!
Up the nose shot – natch!