Photography as a Method for Dealing with Introversion

julius motal introversion the phoblographer

I have a hard time around new people. At parties, I look for the one person I know, and if that’s a wash, I float at the edges of conversations. I’m terrible at introducing myself, though if I’m okay if I’m introduced. The thing about introversion is that I get my energy from within and from my pursuits. Social functions can be exhausting, and I sometimes need to remove myself to the periphery in order to recharge. Photography and by extension writing, like the work I do for this site, quickly became a natural fit for me because it allows me to contextualize my thoughts and put them out into the world in a way that engages with people, which is what draws me to photographing on the street.

Another thing about introversion is that I crave substantive conversation. I’m not good at chit chat. I can’t shoot the shit. With photography, I found that I could have the conversations I enjoy having when I can’t always have them. People are fundamentally interesting to me, but I’m far better at photographing them than I am at talking with them. It’s not that I don’t want to talk with people, I do. I’d just like to zip past the pleasantries. Unless a massive storm is on the way, weather has no place in a conversation.

For me, photography is a solitary pursuit. If I am to photograph with others, it’s usually with a trusted friend. When I’m photographing, all of my mental and physical faculties are given to image making. If I spot something, I’ve got to be quick on my feet, and I can’t be social and photograph at the same time. When I interviewed photographer Lauren Welles for an episode of ISO 400, she told me that she leaves her camera at home when she’s meeting with friends because she’d otherwise be focused on the images happening around her, which is something I’ve slowly started trying.

The social aspect of photography for me is meeting and talking with other photographers. Some of the best discussions I’ve had have been with other photographers, which might sound a bit self-involved. Yet, when you are a practitioner of something, the most, at least some of the most, fulfilling conversations you have are with other practitioners. The great thing about photography is that it is so often a springboard into other topics.

For the uninitiated, the Huffington Post has a solid list of signs introversion that really sheds a light on what introversion is. Photography has helped me to take my introversion and turn it into something. It means I have my camera at parties because while other people mingle, I photograph. It also means that I need to put the camera down and get better at mingling because who knows who that next great friend or career-changing connection might be? I certainly don’t, so I’ll keep trying.