Dear friend,

What are your personal morals and ethics when it comes to street photography?

1. I follow my gut

For me, I follow my gut in street photography. I follow my own code of ethics, and the best rule I have for myself is this:

How would I feel if someone photographed me in the streets like this?

2. How does it feel to be photographed by strangers?

Kai is a great person. Funny, entertaining, but also very smart and clever.

I was honored when he hit me up and featured me on Digital REV — with Lok and Alamby. The whole show was a piss-take at street photography. We walked around shooting street photography in hilarious outfits.

To me, it was a social experiment. How would it be like if I were put on the other side— when I became the clown and spectacle, and everyone else photographed me?

To me, it was a great experience. Everyone started to photograph me and Kai with their smartphones. And for me, I loved the attention. I like being photographed. And the truth is — I have a huge ego, and I love being the center of the attention.

So for me, I have no ethical qualms of shooting street photography — because I like to be photographed.

But this is an ethical problem — not everyone else likes to be photographed in the streets (without permission). So how do I sleep at night?

3. The silver rule in street photography

The first rule to consider: the ‘silver rule’.

It is different from the golden rule in the sense that the golden rule says:

Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.

The problem of the golden rule: not everyone wants to be done onto them as you want others done unto you.

For example, I love physical touch. I love being hugged, kissed, and embraced. I love public displays of affection (hugging, kissing, holding hands in public).

But Cindy hates PDA. Therefore it makes no sense for me to do PDA in public with Cindy — because what she likes isn’t what I like.

The silver rule is to not do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you.

For example, I hate it when others do unto me what I don’t like. I therefore put myself into Cindy’s shoes. I then think — if she doesn’t like PDA, I won’t do it unto her.

So for me, I don’t mind when others take my photograph. Therefore, I don’t mind taking the photos of others.

4. I don’t like being sneaky in street photography

But once again — even though I like to be photographed, I know there are others who don’t like to be photographed.

Therefore this is what I do in street photography — for the most part, I try not to be sneaky when I shoot street photography. I am very obvious when I make a portrait or photo of a stranger on the streets.

Or what I will do is this— photograph them (without permission), then say hello and wave and smile at them afterwards. Or walk over, smile, and show them the LCD of the photo I made of them, and offer to email them the photo.

Or, I like to ask for permission. Because it gives your subject the POWER to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If someone says ‘fuck off!’ — I just smile, say thank you for your time, and move on.

5. What if I don’t like to have my photo taken?

The wording is important in street photography — do you like it when people make portraits of you — not to ‘take’ your ‘photo?’

Do you have low self-esteem? Do you hate the way your body looks? Then you will have a hard time photographing others— because you have the (false) belief that everyone else doesn’t like to be photographed. Because the truth is there are ego-maniacs like myself who love to be photographed.

I think one of the best ways to build your self-esteem is to GET CUT (lose body fat), and also build mental toughness (I study Stoicism).

And the truth is most people in the world are just fucking lonely. They have no social contact. They have nobody acknowledging them as human beings. They don’t have people smiling at them, saying hello, and treating them with dignity and respect.

So if you make a street portrait of a stranger— you are making their day. You are bringing a small morsel of joy into their lives.

You are doing a good moral thing as a street photographer.

Be strong,
Eric

If you want to conquer your fears in street photography, attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP or pick up a copy of STREET NOTES.