I’m fascinated with people who worked for their achievements. When I’m caught up in the fixed mind-set, I tend to think that those whose work I admire had it easy, they had the talent, they didn’t need to struggle, or at least not as much as I would have to.
How did you overcome your fear of photographing people?
I knew that the most powerful thing in photography is photographing people, specifically the face. Diane Arbus, August Sander … I just responded to those pictures and to avoid it would just be sad, so I had to confront it. I started out with kids because that was less threatening. I eventually worked my way up to every type of person. At first, I trembled every time I took a picture. My confidence grew, but it took a long time. I still get nervous today. When I shoot for assignments I’m notorious amongst my assistants for sweating. It’s very embarrassing. I did a picture for The New Yorker recently and I was drenched in sweat by the end and it was the middle of winter. It’s ridiculous.
There’s something very sweet and humbling about it. I find it difficult to photograph people, but somehow I always thought it was just me. To realize that someone as accomplished as Alec can have what appears to be an even harder time photographing people is uplifting. It means there’s hope.
It means, perhaps the growth mind-set theory is true, after all, and we can learn what we choose to work on.