It was our first night (back) together as a staff team. Bonding & bonfiring. Looking ahead to the year. It was shaping up to be a great team. Recent graduates turned interns, friends relocated from another team, long-time teammates. A group photo was a must.
We had no selfie sticks, no tripods, and the sun was quickly going down on our photo shoot. So, we asked some folks to take our picture…
In their defense, these photographers worked pro bono.
Oh, and they were also seven, five, five and two.
They were all seeing the same thing, but they rendered the moment in their own way. Each photo told a bit about the person behind the lens. Not because of what they saw, but by how they captured it.
Once in a while, a camera can snap a good picture in spite of the photographer. However, this is not the norm. The norm is what you see is what you get. A shaky photographer equals a shaky photo. A skewed field of view yields a skewed image. A misfired shoot means an awkward result. An obstructed lens leads to an obstructed depiction. A photo shows how the moment was captured.
I’m a moment-capturer. Sometimes, I capture moments with my fancy camera (which doubles as a phone/gps/e-reader/calendar/Rolodex/encyclopedia/mp3player/notepad/alarmclock/calculator/tv/flashlight/newspaper.)
But, most moments, I capture with my inner world – drawing conclusions, developing understanding, making judgments.
Judgments are my carefully-framed snapshots. My perspective, my experience, my fears, my insecurities, my interpretations, my wonderings, my understanding, my wants.
I capture moments. I categorize interactions. I package up experiences. I navigate emotions. I put a narrow-angle lens up to a wide-angle life. I see things as I see them and I trust that must be exactly how they are.
I craft a narrative in the blink of an eye.
It’s what I do. It’s what I fear others doing.
Because judgment is rarely accurate. It provides a false certainty and leads away from connection. It leads to isolation.
Judgment is the result of standing behind the camera and snapping away willy-nilly. Deciding what is, based on how I see it. Standing at a safe distance, labeling and evaluating, condemning or condoning.
But, what if I flip the camera around, including myself in the shot?
Well, that’s a different story.
Empathy kicks judgment to the curb. Instead of concluding based on my perspective, empathy takes on the perspective of others. Sees what they are seeing. Relates to what they are feeling.
Empathy joins the subject in the viewfinder. Empathy is a selfie (well, a groupie). When I take on someone else’s perspective, judgment loses its job. Empathy is me sliding into the picture.
In retrospect, our team should have taken a groupie. (Or, perhaps hired a professional.)
Or, at the very least, handed the camera to someone with spacial awareness, a steady hand and an ideal lighting environment.
*no child photographers’ feelings nor future careers were intended to be harmed in the writing of this blog post