I am pleased to say after 4 jam-packed days of traveling and teaching a street photography workshop in Brighton, UK and Zurich, Switzerland I am back in Los Angeles. I had the trip of a lifetime and met some amazing people, ate some delicious food, and got some great street photographs as well. I also learned a great deal after doing this workshop and about Brighton and Zurich. Read more to see what I learned after teaching my UK and Switzerland street photography workshop!
1. It is all about the people
Although traveling to a foreign country and seeing new sights, eating new food, and shooting street photography was amazing– it was the people that made this trip truly memorable.
Jason Gritton from Brighton was the first person who contacted me and suggested that I even teach a street photography workshop in the UK. He was the one who took myself and my girlfriend/manager Cindy in and truly treated us like family. Not only that, but he made all the necessary contacts and hooked me up with Garage Studios and the infamous Lomokev. Not only was he one of the cordial hosts who treated me to delicious food (Classic British Fish and Chips, English Ale, and a hearty Full-English) but I could truly feel his love and compassion. Did I forget to mention–he shoots amazing Urbex, street portraits, and street photographs? Also huge thanks to Jason’s girlfriend, Holly Welek, who made Brighton feel like home.
The street photography workshop participants in Brighton were also incredibly passionate and very willing. Many of them came into the workshop not knowing much about street photography but by the middle of the day– were out shooting strangers like pros. I would love to thank the participants for coming out and giving it their all–which includes Dawn, Jaideep, Nicola, Les, Michael, Peter, Robert, Brett, Heather, John, Jonathan, Warren, Charlotte, Jonathan, Andrew, Claire, David, Tiffany, Carsten, Greg, Mark, and Christine. It was a wonderful pleasure and I hope that you enjoyed the workshop as much as I had! Also massive thanks to David Gibson for coming out to the workshop and being my guest speaker. It was a huge honor to have you, and equally as fascinating to see your work and hear how you shoot on the streets.
Thomas Leuthard is also a friend and fellow street photographer that is particularly close to my heart. He is the one that originally helped fund the majority of my trip to Beirut, Lebanon and was my guest speaker. It is amazing that only about half a year later that we would be teaching another street photography workshop this time in his part of the world– Zurich, Switzerland. And of course–this time I was his guest ;). Regardless, Thomas did all of the heavy lifting in terms of registration, marketing, and all of the logistical details. Thomas: it is always a pleasure to shoot with you, and your generosity is boundless. I am looking forward to traveling the rest of the world with you and doing more workshops in the near future.
Having a street photography workshop in Switzerland was also quite interesting as I would say the culture is much more conservative and proper than other places in the world. Many of the participants came in worried about how others would perceive them when shooting street photography, and the possible reactions that strangers would have. However as they all realized, people weren’t quite as scary as they seemed nor threatening. Thank you Kevin, Magdalena, Steven, Sarah, Krisztina, Zoltan, Simon, Anna, Peter, Alessandra, Pascal, Janny, Linda, Andreas, Linda, Rolf, Roland, Barbara, Emanuel, Dimitri, Wesley, Martin, Milo, Jorg, and Tobias for coming out.
Of course how can I write a post without thanking Cindy, my beloved girlfriend and manager. She is the one who encourages me everyday in my street photography, and without her I wouldn’t have made it out to Europe. She helped me with all of the logistical details and ensured I didn’t get lost in a train station somewhere halfway across the world. She also recorded a mini-documentary of the trip, and I am excited to see it.
2. The less stuff you carry, the better
For this trip I took my Timbuk 2 Commute 2.0 bag which held my 13” Laptop, my Olympus EP-2, and Ricoh GRIII. I left my bulky 5D DSLR at home, and am sure glad that I did. Considering that Cindy had more stuff to bring (video recording equipment) she took my Thinktank Retrospective 30, which carried everything she needed and then some.
For our entire trip all we had were two messenger bags and one rolling luggage. It was wonderful, because the minimalist approach helped us enjoy our travel rather than being bogged down by unnecessary weight and gear.
3. Having more than one camera is a good thing
For my trip, it was wonderful to shoot with both the Olympus EP-2 and Ricoh GRIII. During the day, I would wear the Olympus EP-2 around my neck (used for my closer shots with the 35mm perspective) and carry the Ricoh GRIII in my pocket (for the wider 28mm perspective). Both tools served different purposes, and it was wonderful to have them both at all times. Not only that, but there were times in which the batteries on one camera would die, which allowed me to always be shooting.
Considering I had my Olympus EP-2 strapped around my neck, I never missed a potential street photograph opportunity. It was my first time traveling with the camera, and I was quite impressed by the autofocus speed (I heard the EP-1 had horrible AF speed) and the image quality. Not only that, but the retro look the camera had helped me keep low-key (and the camera is quite light yet substantial). The 20mm pancake lens offers a great perspective (35mm equivalent), which I am accustomed to on my Canon 5D. Although f/2.8 is a bit slow when compared to other prime lenses, it was never quite an issue (as it’s high ISO capabilities are quite good).
As with the Ricoh GRIII, I have so many wonderful things to say it is ridiculous. The camera is truly versatile with its size and ability to take great street photographs, and it never held me back. I recall traveling with my Canon 5D on my last trip to Beirut, Lebanon and loathing how large, heavy, and cumbersome it was. With the Ricoh GRIII’s snap-focusing capability, I never got any shots out of focus, and having flash is beneficial as well (did some more Bruce-Gildenesque shots). Although the image quality is not quite as good as a DSLR or Micro 4/3rds camera, they still look wonderful and the High-ISO shots look like film grain (something I love). I had so many wonderful things to say about it, I even convinced Thomas Leuthard to buy one.
4. Shooting in different places is different, but very much the same
It was a great pleasure shooting street photography in Brighton and Zurich. The public perception of street photography is a bit different in both places. Street photography in the UK has been under lots of controversy lately and shooting photos of children is pretty much off-limits. Therefore you may say that there is a bit of “public paranoia” of street photography there. In Switzerland there is not much controversy over street photography, but the country is still quite conservative and has negative thoughts about strangers taking photos in public.
However all-in-all, I was surprised to see that the reaction from myself shooting in the streets wasn’t much different from home. 95% of the people didn’t notice me, and the other 5% would get annoyed but weren’t belligerent about it. Shooting in Brighton was interesting, as it is a very bohemian and progressive place (people don’t mind you taking their photograph). Shooting in Zurich was also interesting as it is very international crossing road (people may have assumed I was a tourist).
Both places were great for street photography. Although I first suspected Brighton as a boring sea-side town, it was energetic, vibrant, and full of color. If anything, I would say that Brighton has more fascinating characters and people than London. When we shot street photography at the Zurich train station (where Thomas Leuthard does most of his street work), I was taken back by how many people stream in and out of there, as well as the spectrum and variety of people.
5. I couldn’t have done it without the community
About a week ago I celebrated the official one-year anniversary of my street photography blog. My tiny and humble blog went from being virtually unknown into one of the most popular street photography resources on Google. Who knew that in only a year I would be featured on the Leica blog, become an Invisible Photographer Contributer, have over 4,100 Facebook fans and over 2,400 Twitter followers, and having taught a street photography workshop in Lebanon, the UK, and Switzerland. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.
Having studied sociology, I know the true importance of having a vibrant and soulful community– as it is part of what being human is. No one man can survive himself, and success is truly dependent on the help, love, and support of others. I appreciate all the encouragement everyone in this wonderful street photography provide me, and I hope to continue to inspire and give you great resources to have.
Got any more questions about my trip to Brighton and Zurich? Leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer all of your questions!