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