Embracing the Role of Fear in Street Photography

“Elks Lodge, Dothan, Alabama, 2005” Not long after I made this photo, I got kicked out of Elks Lodge. I wanted to get used to feeling courageous enough to photograph where I wasn’t necessarily invited to, so I snuck in through the front door of this members-only establishment and started interacting with people. Once staff realized I just came in off the street, they escorted me out, but I didn’t really care. My mission to test my nerves was accomplished.

“Elks Lodge, Dothan, Alabama, 2005”

Not long after I made this photo, I got kicked out of Elks Lodge. I wanted to get used to feeling courageous enough to photograph where I wasn’t necessarily invited to, so I snuck in through the front door of this members-only establishment and started interacting with people. Once staff realized I just came in off the street, they escorted me out, but I didn’t really care. My mission to test my nerves was accomplished.

New York City street photographer Amy Touchette shares an excerpt from her article in tutsplus.com about that ever-pesky emotion: fear. In it, she discusses not only how to deal with fear, but how to use it to your advantage as you photograph. Photo and text by Amy Touchette.

Amy’s workshop, “Photographing Strangers: Candid & Posed,” takes place March 11-16, 2018, in Oaxaca, Mexico. For details, visit the workshop page.

Embracing the Role of Fear in Street Photography

Fear is an indispensible tool that teaches us important lessons about who we are and what our photography is all about.

When you think about making street photography, what fears arise in you? We all have them—even seasoned photographers. Answering this question is one of the quickest ways to get to the heart of your photography, because it highlights what you care about deep down inside.

However, fear is often viewed as a weakness, so it’s not always easy to admit to yourself or to others, and it can be confusing figuring out what’s behind it. Fear is an effect after all—a reaction—so when it arises, what was the cause?

By analyzing what your fears indicate and how they might creep into your process as a street photographer, you can surmount them and use them to your advantage, not by eviscerating your fears—just the opposite: by acknowledging and embracing their essential role in your process. 

Fear is an emotional reaction that’s conceived in the mind. In street photography, fear can be a sign of insecurity, inspiration, or imminent danger. By embracing fear instead of denying it or misinterpreting it, a weak, ignorant position can be transformed into a stronger, smarter one.

Read the rest of Amy’s article, which goes on to discuss these topics:

  • What Is Fear?
  • When Fear Causes Failure
  • Fear as a Sign of Inspiration
  • Fear as a Sign of Danger
  • What to Do When Fear Sticks: Using the Body to Challenge the Mind