During the month I’ve just spent studying photography in NYC I encountered a few obstacles, as it is bound to happen when you’re learning something new. One that upset me a lot, however, is my inability to approach strangers and ask them to pose for me. Whenever we were asked to photograph people we didn’t know for an assignment, I would panic and spend hours trying to find someone I was able to talk to, feeling both relieved and deeply stupid afterwards. What was I afraid of? Rejection? Suspicious looks? They both happened, I survived, but my fear remained. I wondered if this was caused solely by a trait of my personality; I’ve never been extroverted, and that’s ok. But I somehow feel that there is something more here, a part of myself that truly is afraid of people themselves.

In my admittedly limited street photography experience, teenagers and very young adults are easier to approach. Much less likely to be suspicious or rude, and more helpful. It made me wonder when do we start to be so wary of other human beings. I realize that in my case (and probably not only in mine) scars I bear; the hurt that I have experienced so far in life have closed both my mind and my heart. While this may not be a psychology breakthrough the thought, with its serious consequences, hit me hard.

Then on my last weekend in the city I was sitting in a public square, enjoying the sun on my face. I had my hands tucked under my legs to keep them warm and maybe also, I admit it, in a slightly protective attitude towards the homeless person I had noticed sitting on the bench next to mine. I had been there for a few minutes when the man got up and told me: « I don’t know why you’re sitting on your hands like that, but if you’re cold I have an extra pair of gloves, I found them this morning! » I felt relieved and stupid again, but also touched and above all guilty.

I think I still have to find my balance between protecting myself and not missing out on the best of what life has to offer.


Erina photographed at Gantry Plaza State Park, Queens, NYC