Are Nerves Good for Art?
Last year while I was doing the daily portraits I had the opportunity to shoot a few famous people as well as a few heroes of mine who might not be known to all of you, and I noticed that unlike most of the other shoots, I got really nervous in the hours leading up to the appointment. I got cranky, my stomach turned, and I felt lightheaded.
We've all heard the stories of the famous actors and singers who, evenafter years of playing to sold-out crowds, continue to get so nervous before the show that they actually vomit. To think that I'm hoping to get over that reaction.
A long time ago, I used to play the piano. I would feel similar to this right before recitals and remember thinking that the adrenaline helped my performance. However when I look back at recordings, I find that I rushed and I glanced over subtleties that I normally would have graced.
So I guess that's my question, is being nervous good for art?
Do I take better pictures when I'm stressed?
Or when I've got to deal with a limitation like a time constraint?
I'm not sure that I do. My favorite photos from last year are mostly from shoots that were more relaxed and where I felt comfortable. When I shot Buzz Aldrin I had about 30 seconds to get the shot, I took about 20 pictures. But I had bad light to work with, and a guy like Buzz always has his 'show' face on when posing for pictures. So while it was a great experience and I think I pulled it off, it wasn't what I wanted to get out of the experience, either photographically or experientially.
Maybe there are those times when stress forces you to be more creative in finding the solution to a problem, and I'm sure some people get off that buzz. I get off on shooting too, but it's usually when everything starts to flow and you know you're onto something special. As many of my subjects can attest, I get all giddy and smiles. I start to move around a lot too, and say "Oo, Oo, Oo" too many times in succession.
So, if that's the case, and I like not being nervous. What's the trick in overcoming it? Without resorting to Xanax of course. Is it a matter of experience? Then again, if that were the case wouldn't it get easier for those anecdotal performers?
I guess time will bear this one out. I'll keep you in the loop.