What fear, photography, and vaccines have in common

When was the last time you go a shot? A few days ago I had to take my son to the doctors and something unexpected happened.


But before going into what happened, I need to rewind a little bit and explain his first shot. I remember the first time I had to go and make some blood test for my son. He was a baby then. I didn't know what to expect at all. My wife being absolutely terrified of needles, started freaking out, shaking and almost break into tears. I guess I am the one that has to go with my son.


I went in the room, sat down my son on my lap, and the doctor put the needle in, he let out a quick yelp, as if he touched some water that was a bit too warm. Nothing much really. I went back to the waiting room to meet my wife who looked like she went trough a tornado. Looks like it was worse for her than the one getting the shot!




Fast forward a couple of years and today my son needs a shot. He was on the table and started trembling. When the doctor vaccinated him, he SCREAMED to the top of his lungs, so much so that I had to cover his mouth. I was stunned how loud it was.


But that got me thinking. Why? What was the difference between the two experiences? You would think the biggest scandal would have came when he was a baby and when he grew up he would be pretty much used to it and would simply yelp.


What I think happened is that he grew up.  As a baby, fully aware of only the present his response was proportional to the pain. Objectively, a shot is only but about 1/10th of a second and mild pain. His yelp was only for that short amount of time.




But as he grew up and his mind developed, he started to anticipate. His mind started to anticipate the pain, and in his mind, the pain was exponentially worse than the actual pain itself. His overthinking about it probably made it worse, he was thinking about the shot hours before. And he screamed not because the vaccine was somehow much worse than the first one but because he imagined it to be. And he is going to act according to what he believes is, not what is.


I could see terror in him and in his scream. But the terror didn't come from the physical pain per se…it came from what he believed the pain would be like. The 1/10th of a second pain was transformed into an arm pulling pain. And the crazy thing is? It's been proven that the brain will match expectations over reality. If you've ever misread words, it's usually because you expected them to be there.




And that is likewise for real life, our brains will create the experience of our beliefs even if it's not there. So his pain was indeed worse than it was, but it was all in his mind and unfortunately, most of the pain was self inflicted.


Don't we do this as photographers sometimes? We fear making pictures of people in the streets, we fear putting ourselves out there, we fear submitting our images to galleries, we fear taking a chance among other things.




All of these fears might have a basis in reality , but chances are it's more catastrophizing or added interpretation more than reality. Why fear submitting your work to a gallery? You might be rejected. That's it. Nothing more and nothing less. If you think it's the end of the world, or that your work is worthless, or that you'll never amount to anything is your interpretation of the situation.


In that example we are not really afraid of our work being rejected per se, but what we believe it would mean about our work (not worth much). One is objective, the other is self made. If you get rejected, try again. Here's a site showing all the best selling books that were rejected originally.




My challenge to you is this: Observe your fears, whatever they may be. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, heck even fear of success……and ask yourself really, truly….what's the worse that can happen? And I am confident that you will find that most of your answer is catastrophizing and fluff from your own imagination….doing the exact thing that is capable of transforming a simple vaccine shot into an excruciating pain.


It is time to see trough you fear, to pin point the true consequences from the imagined consequences, the objective from the interpretation. To differentiate what could really happen (someone might turn you down) and not what you interpret things to mean (this proves you are worthless, the world is falling).


Now face your fears. Go out there. Be awesome. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.


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4 thoughts on “What fear, photography, and vaccines have in common”

  1. Hello Oliver,
    First of all i owe you an apology. Some time ago i wrote asking why all the photos in your articles were blurry. I usually read them on my iPad and this morning I tapped on one picture, it then filled half the screen and the blurriness vanished. My fault, so please accept my apologies!
    Secondly, i enjoy your articles very much, they always make me think about many aspects of my photography, especially my approach to what I’m trying to do, and why.

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