The Camera: an Introvert’s BFF

Birthday parties. Bar mitzvahs. Graduations. Reunions. Weddings. The blank squares of my calendar disappear beneath scribbles of purple Sharpie ink. Let’s face it: social occasions happen. There’s no avoiding them (well, at least not all of them). The extroverts of my life, bless their social hearts, keep planning these events. I’m fond of a few of these gregarious souls, so I make an appearance every so often to keep them happy.Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

This past year, my camera has become my BFF, my steady, my plus-one. With my camera around my neck, I suddenly become a person with a purpose—which, paradoxically, renders me a person of non-interest. Ah. She’s here to take pictures.

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Poof. Suddenly, I vanish—an acutely pleasurable sensation for me. I like to watch. I like to listen. I eavesdrop with my eyes and ears, and if I’m lucky, I catch a bit of beauty here and there with my lens. My camera allows me to be part observer, part participant. It does the talking for me, without saying a word. I’m present. I’m connected. In my way.

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I have always especially loved faces. As a child, I spent hours locked in my room drawing portraits of people that only I could see—scores of imaginary people who filled my mind. As an adult, I find I reach less for my pencil and far more for my camera.

The camera is a magic pass, giving my introvert self access to faces—and their respective souls—without the need for too much exhausting chitchat.

I have never seen an ugly face.

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And when faces become too much (as they inevitably do for me), there’s always something unexpected that beckons for a closer look, an unconventional vantage point, or a new perspective. Objects transform into subjects all around me if I simply stay still.

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Being still: my introvert superpower. Stillness and patience pay off, behind my lens. The camera grounds me in place and time, and for that, I am grateful. Behind the camera, I remember to breathe. I remember it takes quiet to hear, and it also takes quiet to see.

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  • Jen Piazza

    Beautiful photos, Jenn. In addition to being an introvert and the family photographer I’m also a bit of a camera nerd. What is your favorite camera (and/or lenses) to use?

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  • Marcia at Organising Queen

    I love how you said “The extroverts of my life, bless their social hearts, keep planning these events.” – this is me 🙂

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  • Just Hazel

    Lovely photos and article Jenny. I have not often let myself do this, with people…so many shoulds! You’ve given me permission. Thank you.

  • Rich Day

    Wow, I LOVE your photographs!!

    • Jenn Mattern

      Rich, thank you tons! That means the world to me. Cheers, my friend!

  • Eric

    Now I understand why I don’t like going anywhere without my camera.

    • Jenn Mattern

      Eric, yesssss. Inevitably when I don’t have it, there’s someone or something begging to be snapped. Thanks for stopping by QuietRev!

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  • Love the photos. Your words here have also sparked yet another realization about myself and how I navigate through society these days. With me it’s not so much social events anymore as much as sporting events, adventure races, and gatherings within the bicycle culture (which can be quite social). While I am quite often also a participant, being behind a camera, like you said; gets me noticed as a person with a purpose but also gives me a certain exemption from the expected socializing aspect of the event. I have thousands of photos of other people racing, training, having fun. Not to say I didn’t because I truly enjoy photography, while looking through the photos I find that I quite often have to remind myself of just that.

    • Jenn Mattern

      Daniel, “navigation” is the perfect word. Yes. Social/societal navigation. That’s how it feels. I like that thought. It’s nice to have a legit exemption from expected socializing, and more often than not, someone will ask a not-so-awful question, and I MIGHT EVEN MAKE A LITTLE SMALL TALK. I’m always surprised when I do. 🙂

  • Verone Travis

    I feel the same way. I am known as the person who takes pictures in my family, at work, among my friends. With my camera, the focus is not on me, it is on what I see. A camera is a blessing for someone who enjoys observing life but not necessarily jumping into it.

    • Jenn Mattern

      Hi Verone! I agree. It really is a blessing when your comfort zone tends to be observing life and not necessarily wanting to plunge in headfirst.

  • Stephanie

    This is me. Just about every major social event I attend, I bring my camera with me. Gives me a little breathing room while still “participating” to an extent. And there are days when I like to just walk around and snap pictures of whatever catches my eye.
    Your pictures are excellent, by the way. 🙂

    • Jenn Mattern

      Thank you, Stephanie! Ha, and here I thought I was the only introvert who had this secret up my sleeve. 🙂 Cheers!

  • This is a wonderful piece! I love taking photos as well, for many of the same reasons.

    • Jenn Mattern

      Thank you so much, Cindy! I think we need to start an introvert photography club here!

  • Rachel Sprague

    I love being behind the lens. The still beauty of a photograph, the patience in finding just the right angle and lighting. It requires so much energy while doing so little, being so quiet. Wonderful. Love the pictures, too!

    • Jenn Mattern

      Hey Rachel! I too love the stillness. It’s my happy place…I love to hear from other introvert folk who feel the same way.

      • I love looking at it almost as much as I love taking pictures. If only we could do that in life – make time stand still so we can get a breath and take it in.

  • Beautiful, Jennifer! I’m right there with you – happily behind the camera! 🙂

    • Jenn Mattern

      Thank you, Barbara! That’s where all the cool cats are at, for sure. 🙂

  • Yvonne Cole Herrmann

    Beautiful article! Thank you!

    • Jenn Mattern

      Aw! Thank you, lovely Yvonne!

  • Debby Brauer

    I have found my people! <3

    • Jenn Mattern

      Welcome to your people, Debby! (I’m such an introvert, I didn’t even peek to see if there were comments until a MONTH LATER.) Hi.

  • Shannon Chapel

    I love this, Jennifer! Beautiful photos. I’m also an introvert and prefer to participate in social events from behind the invisibility cloak of my camera. We capture fleeting moments that pass too quickly, but because we were there they’re never forgotten. Lovely post. <3

    • Jenn Mattern

      Thank you, Ms. Shannon! Really appreciate the kind words.

  • Verena

    I am also an INFJ and amateur photographer. Thank you for putting into words that which I have always felt but have never been able to express quite as eloquently.

    • Jenn Mattern

      WOOHOO! Team INFJ Photo Club! Thank you for saying hi. I am so glad you liked the piece.

  • Oh Jen — now that I’ve read your bio, it is no wonder your piece resonates for me — I used to read your blog regularly back in the heyday of blogging. Nice to see you here.

    • Jenn Mattern

      Thank you, Amy! Oh, that makes me happy. Love to reunite with the blog crowd. Thanks for the kind words…nice to see you here too.

  • Exactly. At a recent gathering I was invited to, I ached to pull out my camera. It was a group of phenomenal people — ones I had really been looking forward to getting to know, but felt ill-equipted to approach. And yet it was overwhelming. So finally, I broke out my camera and breathed.

    • Jenn Mattern

      YESSSS. For me it feels much like an oxygen mask.

  • Lynsey Pearson

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m a photographer and this is exactly my experience. My camera gives me permission to be a part of things that I would not normally be able or know how to be a part of. I love being the outsider on the inside of things – it’s very satisfying and fulfilling – but it’s only really socially acceptable when I have my camera in my hand.

    • Jenn Mattern

      Thank you, Lynsey! I wonder how many photographers would describe themselves as introverts. Guessing from the comments here that it would be a high percentage. Yup. We need a club.