To continue STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MANUAL, I cannot say I’m the best street photographer. Far from it. But I can say, I’m probably the best street photography educator and teacher. I’m also one of the most brave street photographers in the world.
How did ERIC KIM become so brave?
First of all, I wasn’t born this way.
I grew up, timid, getting bullied as a kid. I remember in Middle School, all the gang affiliated kids punked me around when I was around 13. They would call me “gay” and “fag”. I never stood up for myself.
One day, I was fed up. I knew that nobody was gonna defend me. I could only defend myself.
So what did I do? I started to work out. I started to save up lunch money to buy “cool” clothes to fit in. I pretended like I was self-confident. I bragged a lot, and loved to show off.
The truth is all my confidence was false bravado. It came from insecurity.
But it worked. By the 8th grade, I was more or less universally liked in school. I wasn’t one of the “popular” kids, but certainly nobody punked me around anymore.
In high school, I was quite self assured too. Of course, I went through my hormone changes, and of course was still an awkward, insecure teenager, who never had a girlfriend.
But once again, I realized I could “fake it until you make it.” I faked confidence. And while taking my confidence, I actually did become confident.
I also started to lift weights. I joined the (American) football team my Sophomore and Junior year. I built my strength and self confidence. I played linebacker (first outside, then inside) and I learned to not take shit from others.
During football, I learned to become more tolerant and open minded too. All my fellow teammates were either white, black, Latino, or Asian. We saw all one another as brothers. I became less racist after playing together with my fellow rainbow crew teammates.
Anyways, how does this apply to street photography? Simple:
Confidence and courage is something that can be taught, built, and developed.
I have a “growth” mentality. I think we’re born as “blank slates” as children. Like computer programs with 0 lines of code in them.
Rather, our programming is from our teachers, society, cultural customs, language, life experiences, books, information, movies, and we can shape our own destiny.
I believe in God and I’m a proud Catholic. Yet, I don’t believe that God has predestined or pre-planned our lives. I see God as our protector and guide. Yet we have free reign to do whatever we want. I also don’t believe in Heaven and Hell after death, I only believe in Heaven and Hell on earth, like Jesus said (The kingdom of God and heaven is within you, not after you die). I recommend reading the “Jefferson Bible” on the life of Jesus, without all the supernatural beliefs.
Anyways if you believe you can control your own destiny, you can develop infinitely. You have no limits.
You’re like a Lamborghini, with a double turbo charged V12 engine. You’re Apollo, with his flaming chariot, flying with the Sun behind you. You’re Iron Man, a normal human being but you have all these robots and tools to empower you (digital camera, smartphone, laptop, internet, etc.)
Talent doesn’t exist.
Another ERIC KIM belief: I don’t belive in “talent.”
Talent is bullshit. It’s all hard work.
If you don’t believe in talent, you have 100% control, agency, and freedom in your life.
Too many photographers say:
I’m too old, or want born talented. I’m just an engineer. I’m not good at drawing. I can never be a good photographer.
Fuck that shit. No more negative self-talk. Don’t tolerate it.
Rather take a book from the egocentric world of ERIC KIM:
I assume I can do anything. Impossible is nothing.
- If I want to learn how to code, I can.
- If I want to deadlift 500 pounds, I can (I already broke 410)
- If I want to be a millionaire, I can.
- If I want to be the most famous photographer, I can.
- If I want to become #1 in Google for street photography, I can (I believed this in 2012, and became #1 in 2017, only 5 years of hustling and 2,800 blog posts).
- I want financial independence and help support my family and Cindy’s family.
Anyways, the modern world sucks. Too much nay sayers.
In photography, just ignore everyone else.
If I can give you real encouraging advice, it would be:
- Don’t use Instagram
- Don’t use Facebook
- Make your own photography blog on 1and1.com and use wordpress.org, and the “Genesis theme” with the “Monochrome” child theme.
Social media fucks up our progress in photography. Why? You care too much what others will think of your photos, rather than making photos that please you.
Of course just ignore me.
A less radical idea:
Never upload or share a photo that you personally don’t like.
If you don’t like your own photos, who else will?
And if you’re not sure whether your photos are “good” or not, you need to learn what makes a good photograph by studying the master photographers.
Learn from the masters of street photography (read my book: “100 Lessons From the Masters or Street Photography”) and search in Google for my composition lessons. And buy a lot of photo books, not gear. Study great photography, and build a good taste for images. Then be a brutal self-editor and self-selector of your images.
To sum up:
Only share your best photos.
Don’t fear rejection.
The biggest problem: we fear the fear of rejection, than the rejection itself.
We are afraid of pissing people off by shooting a street photograph of them.
But when we do piss someone off in street photography, their reaction is often not that bad or scary.
I have a unique world view: I like to be photographed. I’m an attention whore. Therefore I (wrongly) believe that everyone else loves to have their photograph taken.
But ask yourself:
Do I like having my own photograph made?
The mistake: we assume the rest of the world sees the world like we do.
In fact, there are some of us who like to be photographed. Others don’t like to be photographed. Some people like to be photographed when they trust the other person.
So my practical advice: to build your confidence in street photography do the following:
- Become comfortable making self-portraits of yourself (honor thy selfie). Lose body fat, and feel comfortable to photograph yourself in a mirror. And be comfortable having others photograph you.
- Don’t photograph others how you wouldn’t want to be photographed (Silver Rule). If you don’t like people photographing you without permission, always ask others for permission. If you are okay with others photographing you candidly, then it is okay you do the same.
- When in doubt, ask for permission. Street photography doesn’t have to be candid. If you feel afraid or unsure, ask your subject to make their portrait. Then you empower your subject to say “yes” or “no.” Your conscience is clear.
Assignment to help build your confidence
- Do a set of pushups in a public place until you get tired. Then stand up, and go wash your hands.
- Write a blog post about about a “controversial” idea you have. Then share it with your friends via social media or email.
- Ask 100 strangers over the course of a year to make their portrait. Study Danny Santos who inspired me. After getting rejected 1,000 times, you will never be afraid to ask for permission in street photography.
Fear all exists in your mind. You can train your mind with Stoic philosophy (I love Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus). They taught me that fear is nothing.
Also, push yourself out of your comfort zone. To be honest, the quickest way to conquer your fears of shooting street photography is spend an entire day asking strangers permission to make their portrait. Keep asking until you get 5 people to say “yes” and 5 people to say “no.” Even easier, attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP.
For more practical assignments how to conquer your fears in street photography, buy STREET NOTES MOBILE EDITION.
How have you conquered your fears in street photography, or what are some irrational fears you still have in street photography? Share your thoughts on ERIC KIM Forum
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MANUAL
Your personal guide to street photography, presented by your guide ERIC KIM: