1) If I want something done, I have to do it.
It's so easy to just gaze off into the future (be it five minutes or five years) all misty-eyed, and think about how I'll be so much more motivated and prepared at a later date, how there will be much less procrastination and reluctance. Well tough. There will always be discomfort. The discomfort passes when you do the thing and come out on the other side.
Another way to think about this is: If I want to "do it"- I can take it slow. If I want to "get it done," do it all at once. It's like language immersion.
Sure, I can study Mandarin on Duolingo, all I like. Three years of that won't get me half as confident as a year in China.
Sure we can "gradually" transition to a carbon-neutral civilization, but that won't get there half as quickly than if we just get all our bags together and "leap" as Naiomi Klien suggests.
Sure, I can take a photo when the mood strikes me, or sit down and stamp when it's convenient. But I wouldn't have gotten it done.
2) Publicity, publicity, publicity, baby.
Someone or someone(s) had suggested to me pretty early on that I try to get more followers and publicity for my project. They told me it wouldn't be much good unless people knew about it.
Me, with my ever-present faith in an all-knowing, interwoven consciousness, was like: "Meh. Just by doing it I'll make an impact."
I may have been right, but so were they.
I felt like a fraud when I sent out a press release for my project, and bit of a diva when I got my picture in the North Shore News. After all, I had asked for this publicity! It's not like during some overcast evening I was wandering around Ambleside begging for photos like a 1900's orphan, when some winsome and jaded reporter, down on his luck and hungry for a story spotted me down the dirt road and schmoozed over to get the scoop.
But! Because of forthright request for a little bit spotlight, I ended up getting a sponsor for all the stamps I ended up needing.
People need to be seen and heard to get messages out. It's like with Neurotransmitters. Our brains are made up of 100 trillion synapses. Each synapse is made with some key components. You've got your Axon (The idea) and Dendrite (The audience.) The Axon might have some really neat stuff that they want to say to the Dendrite, but they won't be able to get their message across without the Neurotransmitters (The media.) The Neurotransmitters "get the scoop" from the Axon and bounce across to the Dendrite, they bounce back and forth a few times before they're finally absorbed by the Dendrite.
Here's a very scientific and accurate chart:
But do you know what happens if you don't have enough Neurotransmitters? Or the Neurotransmitters are absorbed too soon?
Don't subject yourself to expression depression. Go find some way to publicize the stuff you make today!
That's just good business sense.
3) Find a way to record consent
I realized that my memory would fail me when it came to things people said. Or I would write down a quote, but forget who gave it to me.
Eventually, I established a system on the notes app on my phone. I would write down the identity the person put on their sign, and put next to it "CIP" which means consent to Instagram and postcard. If they only consented to one or the other I would omit the I or the P.
4) Most people care about climate change.
I couldn't tell you how often I was able to get a photo. It depended on the day. I approached anywhere from 3-20 people. Sometimes it would be 50%. Sometimes it would be 30%. On a good day, it would miraculously be 100%. Everyone would say yes.
But when people said no, it was usually because they were busy or uninterested. Occasionally I would get someone who raised their nose, and look at my sign with obvious disapproval.
Sometimes it would happen, but it was rare. I felt that most people cared about climate change, though like me, they wouldn't talk about it on the day to day.
Some Tips for Approaching People
1) You don't know who will say no, and you don't know who will say yes.
When it came to taking the photos, the easiest person for me (a white young woman) to approach was other white young women. But the aim of the project wasn't to display a spectrum of gentrification. It was to demonstrate a rainbow of people from different backgrounds. People who might not normally speak to each other, or assume the other doesn't really care about climate change at all. I wanted everyone to see themselves reflected. So- I had to go out of my comfort zone. I approached people young, old, disabled, homeless, university students, tattoo artists, people of colour, immigrants and visitors.
The funny thing was that I might appraise an intimidating man walking down the street and think, "No way will he stop talking to me." But he would take a photo, no problem. A friendly looking couple would be walking along and brush me off. I could make a guess but really couldn't tell. One trend I noticed, though, was important-looking men in suits around business districts were very difficult to stop.
2) Go to them, because they won't come to you.
Y'know those annoying canvassers who standstill at a fixed spot? I found I was way more successful if I wasn't that person.
It's a lot more compelling to be singled out, just sitting on a bench, or walking along, by someone approaching and saying:
"Hey. I like your outfit. You look cool, can I use you in a project?"
Then standing still on a street corner screaming:
"EXCUSE ME, MISS? MISS? WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP ME WITH A THING?!"
I think approaching people and forming a connection gave me a unique advantage in that I was deviating from the norm in soliciting. The still person within a moving flow on the street trying to make eye-contact and holding something says one thing very clearly: "I want your money or I want your time."
I wanted people's time, but by gently approaching and opening, it also became clear I also wanted to give respect and establish a relationship.
3) Master your pitch.
"Excuse me would you help me with a photo project I'm doing?"
"You would? Great! Basically, I'm taking pictures of people holding this sign. The blank is filled in with your profession or identity. Here are the markers."
"Great. And why do you care about climate change?"
"Amazing. Let's stand here."
"Okay. One more photo!"
"So I'm posting these photos on Instagram, but I'm also turning some of them into postcards and sending them to politicians. Are you okay with that?
Fantastic! Thank you have a great day!"
That is the script that got me through like 50% of photographs. I approached over 350 people, so I got a lot of practice when it came to refining it.
It didn't start smoothly. The biggest blunder was not always asking for consent when it came to things. I had a bunch of great photos at the beginning that I didn't ask consent if I could turn them into a postcard. Miraculously, I ran into one of the people later and asked for his consent.
I didn't ask consent to use their quotes all of the time, I think near the end of my journey, I began to work it into my pitch. Mostly I assumed that it was fine or accepted that I caption the photo with their words. If I were doing it again, I would've made it more clear. Consent is very important!
I also found people were less willing to give publishing consent if I asked before I took the photo.
I think it's the "foot-in-the-door" technique. If I take a photo first, something like consent seems a bit easier to give. Muhaha?
4) Be efficient.
As important as it is to have a quick pitch, it's equally important to have everything ready to take a quick photo. The more time I spent setting up, the more frustrated people got.
After I took photos, most people wanted to go and didn't want to stay to discuss climate change. Sandwiching discussion just before taking the pictures while people were holding their sign gave them a chance to reflect. The answers I got by doing this were less rushed and more thoughtful. I think it was also a lot more fun and enjoyable for both parties.
I carried around a bag with me that had the posters, (laminated of course, for easy writing and wiping) markers, and a cloth. I hung my camera around my neck, at the ready. Because my camera bag was heavy, I could also wrap my camera up in the towel at the end of the day, or drop my lens cap in the bag when I was ready to shoot.
5) The open-from-afar technique.
If I needed to stand still for some reason, I discovered a secret technique for getting someone to stop and talk to you: Start talking to the person when they're still far away (like 3-5 meters or so)! It's a little sneaky, but if I did this, I found people were way more likely to slow down as they approached, speak to me or take a photo.
Next up, Thank you's and lessons learned.