Response to My Hollywood and Flash Street Photography Video

by Eric Kim on August 5, 2011

Yesterday I put up a video of me shooting flash street photography in Hollywood as a tool to help people understand how I get close to people and shoot them with a flash. My original intention of the video was to help others build their courage, rather than offend people.

In the video above I talk about some of my thoughts about the video.

First of all, I am not Bruce Gilden and don’t claim to be. I am hugely inspired by the work of his and those of others such as Weegee, Charlie Kirk, Mark Cohen, Dirty Harry, and some others. My idea is not original, and I have been copying aspects of their technique I like. Through this experimentation, I have found out I enjoy this style and am curious to keep on trying it out. The experience is much more intimate and has been challenging me both as a street photographer and person.

Secondly, the images I took in the video were not great. I only put them in there to be instructive and helpful to give people a sense of how the images would look. I can shoot street photography for an entire day and get 1-2 decent shots if I am lucky. To get a good photo in 3 minutes flat is almost impossible.

Lastly thank you for the comments & critiques. I see my blog more as a hub for street photography discussion, learning, and debate. I purposely never censor any of the comments that people leave, and appreciate everybody’s thoughts. I don’t claim to be the master or have all the answers. Rather being a street photographer that struggled with getting over his fear of shooting street photography– I simply want to help others get over that as well.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, suggestions, or critiques below. Also thanks so much for the continued feedback and support. Shooting street photography, doing workshops, managing my social networks, and this blog is a ton of work–but it is my passion and I do it all out of love to help you and the community.

Love,
Eric

  • Kyle Batson

    Thanks for the response, Eric. So you know, just because I’m not a fan of the ‘in your face with a flash’ style of street photography doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your site and your videos. I think especially with your previous one (Santa Monica, perhaps?) there was a lot of interaction going on with your subjects and seeing how they react is very valuable to me.

  • http://zenowatson.com/ Zeno Watson

    Us wiser photographers get it…
    We know you are developing, failing, growing and experimenting.

    All very important steps a photographer must follow in order to master his/her art in many years to come.

    Yes your photos from the Hollywood are very average and snapshot of not well thought out moments, but you are demonstrating how you go about taking photos, albeit you get a bit carried away. However us followers/friends, who kind of know you and your personality, know you heart is in the right place Eric. Don’t listen to the haters follow your heart and dreams!

    I have said in the past it is great to watch you develop and improve over the year you have been online with your blog.

    My only advice to you from my experience is just don’t shoot anything but really think, and think reflex fast about what you are capturing. You need to up the quality of the photo’s you take.

    Listen again to your vid clip and go in that direction:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy6uo9g0EbE

    From your friend

    Zeno

  • Steve Rees

    What I find curious is that a lot of Bruce Gilden’s photos are obviously taken with the person aware of the camera. I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with taking flash photos of unaware subjects, I just don’t think it works most of the time, not even for Bruce Gilden. But we all like different styles, I prefer the photos taken from a distance where the subject appears less startled by the photographer or not aware that their photo has been taken at all.

    • Chosunking

      there was a recent video in which Bruce was actually assaulted by a woman, using her purse as a weapon. and Bruce has said that he has ‘street smarts” and knows who he can safely shoot..he might want to rethink that POV.

    • Chosunking

      there was a recent video in which Bruce was actually assaulted by a woman, using her purse as a weapon. and Bruce has said that he has ‘street smarts” and knows who he can safely shoot..he might want to rethink that POV.

  • reinhard lampano

  • Thejimcox

    Eric,
    Chase your dream! You’ve helped me so much!
    Jim

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sepia-Prince/1816737124 Sepia Prince

    Just go through, brother. I totally over-stand how this method can make you grow as a person and as a photographer involved in any genre that involves people.

    Street photography offers a LOT of psychological and mental exercises that can be transferred over to other areas that are apart of the human exchange.

    I appreci-love your blog and look forward to a workshop in New York City. Give thanks…
    ~ SP

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sepia-Prince/1816737124 Sepia Prince

    Just go through, brother. I totally over-stand how this method can make you grow as a person and as a photographer involved in any genre that involves people.

    Street photography offers a LOT of psychological and mental exercises that can be transferred over to other areas that are apart of the human exchange.

    I appreci-love your blog and look forward to a workshop in New York City. Give thanks…
    ~ SP

  • Kevin

    Eric, don’t worry so much about trying to create your own style. One of my favorite photographer Arnold Newman once said “What is my style? It’s just a picture that satisfies me. I guess that’s my style.”
    http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0312/video/newman01.mov

    Hopefully in the future I can attend one of your LA workshop. Although I’m not from LA lol.

    Keep it up!

  • Anonymous

    Eric you are a very exuberant young photographer who is still learning and while you are, you have quite openly chosen to share your journey with others on your various social sites. I think that is a wonderfully generous gesture on your part. It’s also very baring.

    I know that in your effort to share not everything you post is your best because you are demonstrating technique.. you are showing how it is done.. and you too are evolving. I accept this and others should learn to as well. After all it is rare that people get a view of the photographer from the inside where they can see the successes as well as the failures. Usually we only see the polished end product and then when someone is famous, an orchestrated interview in some magazine or on video.

    If you are showing courage in anything it is in posting your experiences on this blog for all to see and comment on. Courage isn’t using a flash in someone’s face, it’s facing the same people day after day even after you screwed up whether it’s unintentionally angering some with a video on a controversial technique or raving about the newest toy like a product endorsement boy.

    While I am repeating myself, this candor is the reason that people go to the Eric Kim Street Photography Blog. You -are- the open source street photographer. Whether your viewer is a beginner or a pro you give them the same respect and you listen to them with the same open mind. You share things, give your opinions, listen to theirs both constructive and critical and you keep working toward perfecting your passion.

    Zeno is right, your heart is in the right place, but I do have to say -having avoided the last post- that if you flash me in the face, I will probably flatten you :D .. and I won’t ask your permission. Call it a reflex ;) Having expressed that I will also add that for every instance there are a few techniques one can use and one -perfect- technique so while you explore this part of your photography and develop your skills, keep in mind that there is no one way. Not even when you find your ‘style’.

    In Thomas Leuthard’s book he mentioned the Helsinki Bus Station Theory. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet you can here. http://www.fotocommunity.com/info/Helsinki_Bus_Station_Theory You are on the flash bus right now having taken the Leica bus and soon headed for the “……..” bus station. And that’s okay. You’ll find your way and you will meet a lot of friends along the way– doing the same thing. You’ll also see a lot of people get off the bus entirely. That’s okay too. The bus isn’t right for everyone.

    • http://twitter.com/85mm_ch Thomas Leuthard

      Yes, Eric. Stay on the fucking bus… :-)

      • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

        ;) yes I will sir!

    • Koniczech

      The whole “only show your best work” idea is an interesting one that you might want to bend (if that has been a ‘rule’ in photography forever, why not break it?) I think that since you are compiling this ‘day’ of street shooting, some good shots some bad, by presenting the photographs as a collection rather than as singles presents more of a documentary than just a nice picture. If you are looking at all into the psychological aspects of street photography (and you must, then look into the psychological aspect of street photographers) then I think you should strive for less of a beautiful photo than something that describes people’s behavior in a documented series.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gdwallen Gary Allen

    Your video says it: I was amazed at your courage for many reasons, not the least of which is braving the street and the people with a camera. People aren’t as uptight and defensive as I’d expect, and their reaction really becomes part of the photo since it reflects their personality. But you’re also braving the creative wilds, as you note, which can be equally “dangerous.” Kudos for that. And while I agree that you should continue to set a high bar for excellence, I also argue that your photographic results don’t always have to be completely profound. From an outside perspective, many of the photos you’ve displayed here are excellent in showing the people, a little of their personality, the neighborhood and the mood of the place where you’re shooting. Winning awards is one thing. But providing a simple portal into a neighborhood or providing a view of unposed people can be illuminating, especially if you’re unable to travel to the location yourself and get a handle on the people or area. If your style of shooting and the resulting photos give one viewer one tiny bit more understanding, then you’ve succeeded.

  • http://twitter.com/85mm_ch Thomas Leuthard

    In the end you should do what you like to do. You should take your photos in a way that provides a solid and continuous output you can stand up for. No matter what other people say, no matter if it’s the tast of the crowed. You photograph for yourself and if you feel to shoot some flowers today, shoot them. But if you want to build up your own style you should not try out too many different things. You should have a solid plan and execute it. You will build up your own style based on personal experiences and not comments and critics of this blog. There are too many different voices and opinions, which you cannot follow. You cannot satisfy everyone.
    Just take one step back and think what you really want to do. Focus on taking photos and not on producing videos. You tend to write to much and to shoot less. Now as you have a lot of time, you should spend it wisely on your personal development, marketing you workshops and finding other ways of income. I would even suggest to get a 50% job somewhere, as it would take some pressure to produce. But this is just the way as I think as a Swiss guy. :-) You will find your way. May it will not go straight, but you are young and you still have the time to ride several bus lines to enjoy yourself. Maybe you should start writing a book. It would help thinking more about the whole stuff and find to yourself. The Title could be: “How one video has changed my life…” I would volunteer for the foreword… :-)

    • Anonymous

      Thomas is right, now is the prime time to develop your skills however I do not agree that you should choose a method and stick to it. I believe you should develop your skills and experiment and in time ‘your style’ will choose you. Even if, as he says, you are shooting flowers. You will only gain more skill as a photographer overall. Never limit yourself and whatever you do, do it for you– first. Above you say that you do this for us, the community, but don’t forget yourself.

      • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

        Hey Kristen, thanks for your never-ending support and advice. I will keep on experimenting, finding my niche, and ultimately give back to the community :)

  • http://magtravels.wordpress.com/ Magalie Labbe

    I’m surprised at people’s reaction to your original post – I guess that most people missed the point. Thank you for showing what can be done without getting people mad! I am petrified every day to shoot people and watching you do it does help. Clearly the “model’s” response wouldn’t be the same everywhere in the world, but it goes to show that with exuding confidence (no matter how scared you are) can certainly help.

    Keep shooting!

    • Chosunking

      Most people have empathy and think what if that were me or grandma…

  • Brent

    Hi all,

    I have been following the Eric Kim blog for a while, and what I see, is a young photographer’s evolution. His path may not be everyone’s cup of tea but at least he is trying, experimenting with different techniques. How do he know what works for him if he does not at least try? You can read and look at photos all you want but you need to get out and do IT to know what IT is. I definitely give Eric props for pushing the line, (as some people feels he does). Not many are willing to do that. Does his experimentation work? That’s for him to decide.

    Bruce Lee writes in his “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” book: “When one is not expressing himself, he is not free. Thus, he begins to struggle and the struggle breeds methodical routine. Soon, he is doing his methodical routines as a response rather than responding to what is.”

    Eric is still finding his way, his style. You can’t pigeon hole him into one type of photography. He is not there yet.

    You can’t define Eric on one set of videos. They are just snippets of his street photography life. I for one, gets what he is doing; I do see the big picture and do not judge Eric’s journey. Each of us has their one path and this is his. Even Ansel Adam’s writes, in his photography series of books, that the series is a, “… creative and SUBJECTIVE approach to photography…”, [capitalization is mine]. Where will Eric be in five yeas? Ten years?

    I agree with isoterica, what you see on this blog the Eric strip to the core and I know, and many of you know, it is not easy. You need very thick skin, but I sure many of us photographers felt the wrath of their critics. I don’t see many bloggers showing and doing what he is doing , (or many photographers for that matter); that is showing all his unedited trials. I, for one, am interested it where all this takes him.

    p.s. disclaimer, I do not know Eric Kim personally and have never met him.

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Reading this really touched me Brent–I thank you personally for writing this on my behalf :)

  • Ron

    To thine self be true. I check your website every morning and will continue to do so. If folks do not like your website and its content they do not have to visit it. Better yet they can start their own website! Keep up the good work.

    Travel safe.

  • Jon Savage

    Kudos Eric for allowing us to accompany you on your journey. Watching you try new techniques as you discover your own way of seeing is fascinating. I also applaud the fact that you did not moderate the comments on that blog post but instead posted a good rebuttal the next day as Charlie Kirk suggested. Thanks again, my friend. I look forward to shooting with you again soon.

    Oh… one more thing- I was with Eric for several hours last month while he shot street with flash. It was interesting to observe him first hand. He was always quite respectful of folks and no one as far as I can recall was at all put off or offended by his shooting.

    Lets also not forget that he’s embarking on a journey that is in its own way pretty courageous and he’s giving a lot of himself, baring himself to many by letting us tag along.

  • http://zenowatson.com/ Zeno Watson

    Was it a waste of time?

  • Bob Leflou

    Hi Eric!
    I’ve had mixed feelings while watching your “flash” video. At first, I thought that was the “flash in the face” that didn’t feel right to me, but it was not. Flash street photography is not my thing; I do not like it, but I’m fine with it so far.
    What I did not like, to be honest, is the fact that you kept shooting randomly like a maniac; it seemed that you did not even tried to catch a moment or a scene or anything else, but just kept shooting blindly, hoping for the best.
    I’m not that experienced in street photography, and I may have missed the point here, but that felt awkward.
    By the way, it’s great you keep that positive attitude!

  • fotofungi

    I thought it was going to be worse than it was, don’t get me wrong i’m not an advocate of street photography with a flash and me being me it was painful just to watch it, but all and all I didn’t think it was that disrespectful.

    I’m always reminded of the saying “the difference between a good photographer and a great one is a great photography shoots twice as much and shows half as much”, I like your “conductor” and various other photos from earlier much more than the general snaps because it appears much more thought is in them but I also realise that 1 good photo from a day is a good day and you’re showing a lot.

    Keep it up, though I love to see you drop the flash and look around more for scenes that actually interest you… each to his own though.

  • Daniel Joeun Oh

    This is what you get for listening to YouTube comments foo.

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      WORD

  • http://www.facebook.com/ececec Evangelo Costadimas

    One of the tenets of street photography is that it should be candid. In order to get candid images up close, the street photographer must make him/herself invisible. Since we don’t have Harry Potter’s cloak, we all have to find our own ways to achieve this. Bruce Gilden makes himself invisible (most of the time) because he pops out of nowhere (generally is walking behind people in a very crowded street so the subject doesn’t even see him coming). Because he is so fast, his subjects have not realised or reacted yet that they’re being photographed until a second or two after the photo is shot. Even then, because he continues to walk, there is some doubt in their mind of whether or not he was taking their picture. This is Bruce Gilden’s method of making himself invisible.

    Now, what I saw you doing Eric, was mostly walking up to people and flashing them in the face. They could see you coming and granted they were not reacting yet except that most of them are looking straight into the camera. This is no longer street photography by definition. This is a portrait, as Richard Avedon said “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed.”

    I met Charlie Kirk in Tokyo and watched him working and quite like Gilden, he does make him self invisible, he walks very fast in crowded streets and suddenly pops in front of his subjects before they even see him coming. I also watched the video you posted about Fabio Pires and I am very saddened to see this kind of behaviour and calling himself a street photographer. What he does, is purely predatory, thoughtless and careless.

    By the way, you should have a good ‘bedside manner’ as Gilden calls it and should smile etc. when you’ve pissed of someone but you should not so readily offer to delete an image. You should try to talk yourself out of it. The average Joe out there does not know that we have the right to shoot anyone without permission in a public domain and it helps to explain it to them. I’ve even gone to the length of allowing them to call the police and have the police explain it to them but as a photographer I also have to protect my right (when I am right).

    You also mentioned that you are not a ‘voyeur’ shooting from across the street with a long zoom lens. While I applaud you for embracing street photography and shooting up close and personal, I would have to debate with you on what it means to be a street photographer. All good steet photographers are voyeurs par excellence! If you are not, then you are missing a lot of great pictures out there. Think of it for a second. You are looking at strangers through your viewfinder, the viewfinder becomes a metaphor for the peephole.

    Sadly, most of us (yes, myself included) are too bent on capturing interesting faces while we ignore one of the other tenets of street photography which is really what it is all about. Juxtaposition, irony, humour and most importantly of all: capturing a human moment in daily life. Those moments that only we can see and most ordinary people miss.

    On a more positive note, I must also add that I find it very encouraging that a younger generation of photographers have taken up street photography which at some point was almost becoming extinct, guys like yourself, Charlie Kirk, Dirty Harry and others, please keep up the good work but please also remember to respect the tradition.

    Thanks

    EC

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503394674 Joseph Camosy

    Have you seen this link on petapixel?

    http://www.petapixel.com/2011/08/04/ambushing-people-on-sidewalks-with-a-canon-5d-and-handheld-flash/

    I admire your courage, Eric. The great advantage to you is that by choosing to share your journey with others and helping others, the universe is providing you the feedback and instruction you need to advance rapidly.

    You are on the fast-track to being a great photographer…. stay on the bus.

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Huge thanks for the love and support Joseph. Hopefully I can continue on my photographic journey and end up where I want/need to be :)

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      Huge thanks for the love and support Joseph. Hopefully I can continue on my photographic journey and end up where I want/need to be :)

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