I have ADHD.
That might seem like a rather funny way to start off a blog entry about photography, but I think it’s an important point to give things a little bit of context. There are times when it barely effects my day to day existence. Other than being distracted at the drop of a hat and having a tendency to not being to finish off a train of thought, it’s manageable. Unfortunately when it’s bad, it’s very much like the proverbial girl, with the little curl – ‘orrid. Annoyingly I seem to be having rather a lot of ‘orrid at the moment.
So yes, photography. The making of images. Let’s talk about that. Having the chance to be creative, and to produce something ‘good’ is, at it’s most fundamental level, why I pick up a camera. It’s fair to say that, due to the lurking ADHD thing, ‘typical’ success is something that I’ve found very difficult over the years. It’s one of the main problems with the condition, being able to stay the course with something is bloody hard when you have the attention span of a gnat and a memory like a goldfish. So my ‘have a career’ box is pretty much empty. Based on that, I don’t tend to get much in terms of external reward. That’s where the photography comes in. It’s silly, but if I have a good day out and about with the camera, I’ve been known to end up in tears during post production, because I’ve shot something good. I’m not talking about anything that will change the world. But something that means something, or shows something or that says something – however garbled. This is a good, happy feeling making thing.
I also like the fact that each half decent image serves as a reminder of a time when I was focused. I’m a manual shooter, I’ve forced myself to be. Firstly because I know it will help me to produce a better quality of image. Secondly because it forces me to pay attention. I can’t happy snap. I can’t allow the ADHD to take over and make me lazy. So I have to focus, I have to pay attention to light, to what’s going on around me. That’s before we even get onto constantly adjusting the trinity of settings required to get the exposure to where I’s like it to be. Basically, If I want to make an image, the ADHD has to keep its mouth shut whilst I work.
That said, even then it’s often very difficult. There are times when I take the camera out. I’ll walk for hours, and I won’t take a shot. This isn’t because I don’t see anything worth shooting. It’s more that I overthink, that I worry. Lots of negative stuff seeps into the mindset which means I freeze up. This doesn’t tend to happen much when I shoot the occasional portrait, but until quite recently, it was a regular occurrence when shooting ‘street’.
I’ll be honest, street photography is probably both the worst and the best type of photography I could have tried my hand at. It’s great for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but at the same time, I don’t think there could be a worse genre for someone with my condition to get involved in. I mean, there’s SO much going on, so many people, so many things, interactions, places, STUFF! For someone who is so easily distracted. This is not a good thing. I’ve mentioned the problem I have with ‘squirrels‘ in a previous post. Bottom line is, having lots of different stimuli going in means I have trouble thinking straight. Not so useful when your trying to keep your eyes peeled for a decisive moment or two.
There’s also the failure rate. You have to be quick, fluid, instant. I’m none of those things as a street shooter – though I’m getting better – so my failure rate is pretty high. A quick ADHD sidenote, we don’t tend to handle failure very well, when you’ve done it rather a lot, you get a wee bit tetchy around the subject. So producing a pile of not quite good enough images really does weigh heavy. And I’m talking ‘screw this, I’m selling my kit and never touching a camera again’ heavy.
We have a tendency to overreact by the way.
But then. Oh my goodness, but then……..There’s the oh so fantastic flipside. The raison d’être of street photography – or mine at any rate. That chance to connect, to feel like you know a person that little bit better, that you’ve paid attention to them in a different way through the medium of an image. The opportunity to make a picture that just feels right. An image that isn’t just a happy snap, one that I’ve made, not taken. Well I’ll be honest, street photography gives me that buzz like nothing else. It’s remarkably addictive and, just occasionally, fantastically rewarding. Because when I get home from a day out and about. A day where I’ve got my special brave head on. And I find THAT image. The one that makes it all worth while, well you just can’t get that feeling anywhere else.
And that, for all the pain, for all the amped-up ADHD fuelled frustration and doubt that goes with it? Well it makes going out and shooting street wonderfully worthwhile.