Photo essay: facing fear

Fear: an emotion everyone experiences strongly at least once in their life. Photo: Eliza Cashman



When I was asked to create a photo essay on a topic of my choice I knew immediately that I wanted to do something addressing human emotion. I asked myself what is an emotion that everyone experiences strongly at least once in their life. The answer was fear. From the time we are children we learn to fear the world around us. Often these fears are learned from our experiences. Sometimes though, we learn to fear things because others are afraid. It’s the reason campfire ghost stories are so effective, even for skeptics. A point of focus in my childcare studies was the passing on of fears from carer to child. A particular caution was given against phobias. When confronted by a phobia we often act irrationally, for example, if someone suffering severe arachnophobia encounters a dangerous spider in their bedroom, they are likely to run out screaming, or crying, possibly both. This removes them from immediate danger, however it means they will either encounter the spider again, live in fear of its next appearance (often at the expense of sleep), or have someone else come in to take care of the problem. They aren’t in a position to rationalise that killing the spider then and there will solve the problem, and act accordingly.

These thoughts brought me to a remembrance of an experience I had with a close friend. We were visiting a wildlife park with her infant son for the first time. There was a room we had to go through to get to the rest of the park and it was filled with large butterflies. I did not know until then that she suffered a phobia many refer to as Lepidopterophobia. Remembering her reaction to the butterflies helped me realise that even in a time when we have so much control over our environment many everyday objects, places, and situations can trigger crippling fear. Most of us do not even notice things like traffic, heights, crowded rooms, open spaces, children, or loud noises, but to those suffering from these phobias it can be a confronting experience just to catch the train to work every morning. All this went through my mind in an instant, and suddenly there was nothing else upon which I could have based this photo essay.

Click on the slideshow below to see Eliza’s photos, which are best viewed full screen.


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