Introverted Observers
By Steve Portigal at 2:02 pm, Friday January 27 2012

We’ve had a lot of good posts – and comments – as of late about extroversion, introversion, talking to strangers, comfort zones, and so on. This brought to mind a story from a visit to New York a while back. In Let’s Embrace Open-Mindedness I tell two stories from my personal life (e.g., not when conducting research) where I explored the edges of my own comfort zone in just slightly unfamiliar circumstances, one situation where I saw the opportunity and couldn’t make the leap, another where I saw the opportunity and convinced myself to take that leap.

Followers of this blog will know I love taking pictures of curious and interesting things that I see everywhere, but it’s much harder – and not always appropriate – to take pictures of the curious and interesting people that I see everywhere. Indeed, in true Heisenberg fashion, you can’t always get the picture you’d want if you have to interact.

Anyway, visiting New York and walking through Times Square, I came upon people promoting Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking.” They were dressed as parodies of the book cover, with Fisher as Leia. At two separate points, I asked these hawkers if I could take their pictures.

Well, sure. It’s New York. It’s Times Square, thick with tourists, and these people are calling attention to themselves for promotion. All those cues shift the norm and make it reasonable/comfortable/appropriate/possible to do something that we don’t normally do: asking “Hey, can I take your picture?” That’s probably why I have so many photos taken with Shrek, Mr. Peanut, an Animaniac, the Monster.com monster – there’s something delightful and ironic about this staged naturalism, as if yes, I am hanging out here with my arm casually thrown around a 6-foot be-monocled legume. The opportunity to ask for a picture is so built-in to our scripts that it seems a crime to not get the picture!

Also see: The bear that saluted me

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One Response to “Introverted Observers”

    Love this perspective! I find myself sitting on this precipice often- do I ask to take a picture (thereby de-naturalizing the events and people in my frame) or do I take the shot without permission, hoping I don’t intrude, offend, impact the natural events, etc.? Not an easy question and the answer is never the same.

    Comment by tamara 01.30.12 @ 9:34 am