Photography & Introversion

Being a confirmed introvert I was drawn to read a blog by photographer Eric Kim regarding introversion vs extroversion in street photography. A very interesting article that highlighted the different approaches each character type brought to the field.
At the end of the article there is a link to the Myers-Briggs personality test. Unsurprisingly I came out as an INTJ with an introvert rating of 89%. I have taken this test several times, and although the results do vary somewhat, I am always INTJ.

It was reading the comments, both in reply to this blog, & also the comments on the link that took me there in the first place, that got me thinking. One being how many of the commentators appear to be introvert photographers. The other was that the obviously extrovert commentators used terms such as ‘shoe starers’, and made statements like ‘such and such did this…not an act of an introvert…’  showing a complete lack of understanding of how we introverts function, and view the world.

Just because we are introvert does not mean that we cannot interact with the rest of the human race. I have to deal with members of the public on a daily basis. I cope with this because I am professional at what I do, and confident within my field of expertise. My contact is generally brief enough to not necessitate ‘small talk’ which I do find a struggle; I can cope with a bit of weather talk…but football or Eastenders (or is it ‘Strictly’ nowadays?)  leaves me cold.  Also most of the contact is one to one, which is fine. It is group interaction that becomes uncomfortable.DSC_0964

One thing I am certainly not, (and I think this is true for many introverts) is a ‘shoe starer’! DSC_5093a

Introversion seems to be considered a disability & a hindrance. Something to be ‘sorted out’. We are made to feel that there is something wrong with us. At school we are told that we ‘need to come out of our shell’ and other such comments. Most of my school reports included the phrase ‘very reserved’. Many of us find ourselves putting on the mantel of extroversion to try and conform to the expected social preference, which is never a comfortable fit.

In certain areas of photography there seems to be an unusual number of  introverts. In the club to which I belong I suspect at least 70% are of the introvert persuasion. Certainly true of the hobbyist photographer, but does this theme carry through to all areas of photography? I suspect not; Photography has a very wide appeal, and there are many aspects to it. Fields such as sports & photo journalism will probably appeal to the more extrovert character. Wedding photographers must be leaning towards the extrovert; to me the thought of dealing with all those people in that environment just terrifying!

Do you have 65 pence please sir?

Other areas will obviously appeal more to the introvert. Landscape is very much an introvert exercise. Traipsing up hill and valley, waiting for the right light, the right sky, camping out if necessary, is very a solitary experience, unless you have slightly masochistic friends! Also you cannot focus (excuse the pun)on the task in hand if you are worried about how bored your friends/family are. So it is far better (for their sake) to leave them at home!

Macro and nature are not generally group activities either when it comes to photography. You soon run in to trouble if there are two of you trying to shoot the same butterfly, and trying to creep up on timid wildlife is tricky for one, let alone a herd of you!

Street photography could work as a group activity, but only if you all go your separate ways and meet up later in a coffee shop. There is no way you will capture a moment if you have half a dozen lenses pointing at the same subject. In reality it is another solo operation, but certainly not exclusive to the introvert. As Eric Kim highlighted (he himself is an extrovert) The two different character types bring a different interpretation to the subject. Very often the extrovert will be close in to the action, on the move, hunting for ‘the moment’.  The introvert be moving slower seeing patterns, juxtapositions, anticipating photo opportunities.

There may be good reason why photography is so appealing to introverts. It serves us very well in several ways. It gives us a fine excuse to separate ourselves from the rest of you. Whether it be climbing a mountain for that fantastic vista, or walking a busy street observing and shooting the life that surrounds us. It also gives us a platform to make our quiet voices heard above the clatter of the extroverts!

Here is a link to the Myers-Briggs personality test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

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10 Responses to Photography & Introversion

  1. A considered analysis of introversion and extroversion.
    I believe that one of the original definitions stated that introverts are drained by company and need time alone to recharge their batteries whereas extroverts find company exciting and invigorating.
    Introverts are not incapable of behaving in an extroverted way, they just find it exhausting.
    It’s a theory I find appealing.

    I vary between ENTJ and INTJ depending on my mood. As a child I was very introverted, desperately shy and antisocial in fact. I made a deliberate effort to change in my teens and twenties but now in my 40s I am returning to type. I’m getting too old and it’s too tiring to keep pretending.

    On the subject of photography – microscopes make fine subjects!

  2. Reblogged this on Spock's Sister Sees and commented:
    Check out this newly created blog by Richard McMellon a photographer and introvert. I have known Richard since I was 17 years old and he’s one of my favourite people. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, kind and witty, a very dear friend. He also happens to be an excellent photographer. Photographs he took of my Nikon S L Ke microscope are on my About page. Hopefully there will be more microscopes in his future…

  3. A nice start to the blog, Richard. Best of luck in 2014,
    teagan

  4. Gypsy Kiltbomb says:

    I 89ed on introverted, too (INFJ in my case). I definitely need time alone to recharge, or I get flaky in a hurry. Other introvert traits I saw in a discussion of the types some years ago resonate even more with me: prefers thought to action; prefers depth of knowledge and influence to breadth; prefers substantial interaction to frequent.

    While I am an admirer of photography, I am truly awful at it; a thousand words are worth more than any picture I’ll ever take. 🙂 I’m looking forward to what you’ll have to say, wordlessly or otherwise.

    • Yes…that time alone…& what happens when you don’t get it? I am not sure how to describe that feeling….

      • Gypsy Kiltbomb says:

        I call it people-overload. If there’s too much socializing and no breaks for me, I start to retreat, right there with everyone around. I stop talking entirely, will try to literally hide behind my husband, and he (who is most assuredly an extravert, but fortunately an understanding one about this most of the time) says I raise the warning flag he recognizes best: a sharp increase in trips to the bathroom if there’s absolutely nowhere else I can be alone for a few minutes. He says if I grab my purse and vanish more than three times in an hour, he knows it’s time to go home, because I’ve just about hit the limit.

        Being who I am, I tend to describe (and feel) it in spiritual/energetic terms: My defenses only hold up so long, and once they’re gone, I feel like other people’s energy is getting all over and in me, and that isn’t bearable for me for very long. Sometimes all I need is a little time to put the defenses back up, and I’ll be all right again for a while. I keep a book in the car; if we’re somewhere we both agree is safe, I can go out to the car and read for 20 minutes, and I’m good for another two hours or so. I still don’t exactly enjoy it, not the way he does, but I can do it.

  5. Angela says:

    Great to see you’ve started a Blog, an excellent outlet for your talents Rich. As for the Myers Briggs thing, I did this way back in the 90s as part of a psychometric assessment for management and guess what, I came out INTJ aswell. However I think care needs to be taken with the label Introversion. The test feedback may have been updated in recent years but back then I was told the I reflected a preference for Introspection which is a slightly different thing. It suggests you have a richer inner life which includes perhaps a more abstract and imaginative interpretation of experience – less Pepsi Max whoop whoop, more reflective analysis and contemplation which might explain some introversion in terms of less tolerance for triviality and also why creative photography appeals to so many Is.

  6. I am thrilled you have started a blog. Writing down what you think and feel somehow clarifies it to yourself – as well as other people! Would I be out of order in saying I think introverts (and I am most certainly one) perhaps experience greater empathy with others? And that therefore as photographers they are more likely to capture that special something about a person? When they are taking pictures of other introverts, anyway! And that they are more likely to find subjects and angles that others miss?

    • That is an interesting point; yes I think we can find that not so obvious angle. We are not restricted to shooting other introverts though! All humanity is fantastic & exciting to capture, sometimes contemplative, sometimes exuberant.
      As introverts we tend to observe very keenly, and prefer a ‘warts and all’ kind of approach, rather than an over edited ‘pretty’ picture.
      Perhaps this is why I am more drawn towards street photography as apposed to wedding photography.

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