Shane Taylor: “Say yes, when every instinct is to say no”

Shane Taylor street photographer

If you enjoyed the interview with Shane Taylor last week, here’s a bonus post. I touched on this subject when Shane and I met, but we later realised there was more to say. Shane has been open about experiencing anxiety, so I asked him to email me his thoughts on how street photography had helped him to manage his social anxiety.

As an introvert who frequently experiences social awkwardness, I found this very honest account somewhat relatable. Maybe you will too…

DRG: Tell me about how you used street photography to help with your social anxiety?

Shane Taylor: Everyone should try street photography for anxiety. It’s exercise. It gets you out in the sunlight. Like any craft, it’ll focus your mind in an effort to get better at it. It’s also a simple way of engaging with society and developing a sense of empathy.

Personally, I’ve struggled with social anxiety for most of my life. For me, it manifests as an overwhelming, irrational worry about what people are thinking about me. It’s taken me years to realise that the best way to cope with it is to force myself to be as social as possible. To say yes when every instinct is to say no.

When it was bad, it was very bad, by the way. In my twenties, I was a 350lb shut-in. I was a terrible flake who avoided and lied to friends until I had none. I couldn’t do the most basic things like shop for myself or draw money from an ATM if people were queuing. For almost ten years I never went to the cinema (my favourite place in the world), a club, a wedding, or any kind of social gathering.

When I was 28, I figured this was either going to kill me or I could at least try to gain control over it. (I credit a lot of the reason for my change in mind to watching movies and reading books about cowardice. Two movies specifically – Billy Liar and Zorba the Greek. Which I think speaks to the importance of art in sharing the human experience, and making people feel less alone with their struggles.) In quick succession, I lost 100lbs through diet and exercise. I met a girl. I went to college for a degree course in graphic design, and I moved into a house share in Dublin City.

I found photography in college through books by Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston. I tried street photography, thinking it would at least get me out of the house-share during the day. It forced me to be in public and to do simple things like get public transport and interact with people every day even if it was just to order coffee. It helped quiet my anxiety to a point where it became a lot easier to cope with.

Nowadays, when I’m taking photos, I’ll occasionally have a moment on a sunny day in London, where I’m in a swell of people and I feel fully relaxed. No anxiety. Like I’m flowing in a river of humanity and I’m not fighting it. I’m going along with it and there’s no worry at all.

It’s a fucking great feeling and I’d love for everyone with anxiety to experience that.

Thank you Shane!

Read the full Shane Taylor interview here. See Shane’s co-curated street photography exhibition here.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Shane Taylor
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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