Lose The Fear, #PostEmotion

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art

During a transitional period in his life, photographer Greg Berg read Steven Pressfield’s 2002 book The War of Art, which navigates the journey of overcoming fear and other obstacles to artistic expression. The book had a profound impact on Berg, who admits it wasn’t until he began to fearlessly explore his artistry that he found his identity. His endless exploration has helped him become internationally known for his stunning shots from atop New York skyscrapers, and in abandoned MTA stations.

Berg is now taking his inquisitive genius across New York (and even Baltimore) to snap photos for his #PostEmotion Instagram hashtag. Inspired by the emotional pull of his own photos, Berg created the hashtag as a haven for other photographers to record the memorable moments in their lives. Knowingly or not, the project is Berg’s way of paying it forward. Scrolling through the tag unveils a visual anthology of people in varying stages of their journeys. #PostEmotion is a simple, straightforward incitement for anyone with a camera to overcome their fears, find their identity, and honor humanity in the process.

While technology’s omnipresence is usually awesome, our digital infatuation has made human vulnerability a downright spooky concept for some to engage. Is a packed train with nearly everyone face down in their phone, de-sensitized to the homeless’ plight and street artist’s vigor, an indicator that we’re resisting each other? A movement like #PostEmotion is necessary to combat societal apathy one shot at a time.

The collective response to Berg’s project has been impressive—over 3,300 photographs have been snapped. But Berg hasn’t let the viral reaction get to his head. The self-awareness and humility he radiates even through e-mail showed me #PostEmotion is just something he felt he had to do.

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What made you pick up a camera, and how long have you been a photographer? Do you have formal training?

I’m fully self taught. The idea of being able to make a moment outlast the test of time intrigued me to pick up my first camera. Also, art is huge in my family so I’m surrounded by all forms of it. I’ve been shooting photographs since I was 13.

Can you expand a bit on coming up in an artistic environment? Are your parents or older siblings etc artists?

My dad is a huge artist, he paints incredible water colors and builds model trains. Art is everywhere. My  great-grandma was an actress. My grandpa was a writer.

What inspired #PostEmotion’s creation?

I just started noticing an interesting amount of emotion in my portraits that I take on the streets of New York City.

What’s exploration like? Waking up in the morning and stepping out of your home, what helps you decide where you want to go and why? Do you seek out certain locations for certain emotions?

Hell yeah man, Chinatown ’til the day  I die. I go to Chinatown all the time man. The neon lights, the faces, the wrinkles and the graf scene is so lit.

Exploring is the shit, it saved my life, no lie. I was honestly nobody ’til I started exploring. A book called “The War Of Art” by Steven Pressfied, (you should) read it.

How do you feel about the response to #PostEmotion?

Dude it’s been so real. The love is nonstop on instagram. I really feel like I’ve started kind of a movement. The response has been awesome, not to sound egotistical but I’m happy to see where its going. I’m glad people are starting to love portraits.

What’s the backstory behind the photos with the Bloods and Crips, and the masked people with guns? Did you happen across them while exploring?

Hahahaha good times. Nah, I walked up to them during the Baltimore riots and introduced myself and showed them my work and told them my vision. Obviously it was insanely sketchy, but I say it all the time, I will die for a photograph. I was all about it, we talked for a while. And then we met up a bunch of times with three of my homies who also shoot. The whole video will be out soon, it’s sick.

I will die for a photograph.

If we may ask, what kind of camera do you use, and what do you use for post-production?

As for my camera, just meet me and you’ll see it. It’s always in my hand. I hate when people say “Damn man, your camera must be so sick!” That’s like saying to a Chef “Damn man, your oven must be super good” I know people who kill it with crop sensors.

I imagine it’s challenging to capture some people in their natural element once you pull a camera out. Do you find it difficult to capture raw, real emotion before someone gets bashful or unwilling?

People get super mad, but I don’t care. I just want to take your photograph. I’m not doing anything negative with it, just going on the internet. I can see why people get pissed but whatever. I’ve been hit and swung at before so I’m used to it. The closer they get and the more mad I make the person, the more the emotion.

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How much harder is it to simply explore with the rising public profile and police attention? What are some specific examples of obstacles that weren’t there four years ago?

I don’t want to go into that too much, but basically kids are in it for the fame and blowing everything up. I still explore, but low key.

Are there any moments above ground that are as exhilarating and high-alert as dodging third rails?

Nope. Nothing.

How gradual was your transition from shooting occasionally to walking the city seven days a week?

Went super fast, like 6 months or something. It’s insane, I love it.

What places beyond New York do you wish to explore?

Everywhere, man. Australia is the dream though, to live there for a year or two and take photos, to see the entire continent. Anyone reading this that can make it happen, call me!

I know you typically like to take in the sounds of the city, but what music, if any, has been your soundtrack for exploring?

Soulection. Joe Kay and that entire team are visionaries. All I shoot to and edit to, obviously Kanye ’til the day I die though. Also, James Lanning.

To see more of Greg Berg’s photography, check out his website www.gbergphoto.com and his Instagram @gbergphoto.