Uncapping the lens

I stood in the back of the tent, with both a camera and an All Access pass around my neck.

The heat was pressing in from all sides. The Second Stage was a sweat box. Kids crammed toward the front. Soulcrate started their set while Kerrie and I stood fast, she watching from a safe perch, me struggling to gain the nerve to move forward.

“So, you going to go take pictures?”

My stomach sank. This isn’t my gig. This is for the professionals. I can’t hop up behind the stage, in front of the stage, on the stage. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was a fraud, a hobby photographer who hadn’t even received any lumps, let along earn them. Who did I think I was?

I was nervous I’d be found out.

The All Access pass had come from co-worker. He had received two, though his was being put to good use – he was actually collecting footage for a video on Jazzfest. Others slunk around with their own passes, looking official, looking as though they knew what they were doing.

I, on the other hand, felt as if I had snuck into the clubhouse, looking around to see if anyone would catch me.

I moved to the back. I stood a few rows back from the side of the stage. I snapped some pictures, looked at them, hated them, wanted to move closer. And, I wanted to turn back.

But I didn’t. I moved in. I edged toward the stage. My pass gave a clear path, people moved aside, I got a great shot; took it, and was happy. No one had found me out yet.

I moved closer. I saw others on the stage, video cameras and digital SLRs in hand, moving from side to side, documenting the action without being noticed at all. Only one had a pass – my coworker. The rest were rouge agents, brought in by the band itself or, most likely, not giving a damn about a pass.

Taking pictures freely. As if they knew what they were doing.

And it hit me. Just like that. With the proper props, I looked just like they did. The band didn’t notice them, the audience didn’t notice them. Hell, they barely noticed each other. They were playing the part of third-bit actor, sliding into the film for some added color but never making an impact. They were documenting the action and it was action worth documenting so the more the merrier.

I kneeled down and rested on the stage. I climbed up onto the stage. I stood on the stage, camera pointing, catching what I should have been catching from the beginning. I moved to the front of the stage, grabbing the audience, getting better than a front row seat, interacting with the band without actually saying a word or moving a muscle.

Everything just slid away. There was no need to feel weird about wielding a camera. It’s a prop, its very presence making a person seem knowledgeable. You take 1000s of pictures and ten turn out, but everyone who sees you imagines you’re taking the next great portrait.

Insecurities have no place in photography. Just make your mistakes, climb up for a better vantage point and start shooting away.

Indoctrinated into the club. All for finally gaining a spine.

Soulcrate: Jazzfest 2008

This was lovingly handwritten on July 18th, 2008