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I talked to my buddy Grace, and she gave me an idea about talking about street photography and eye contact:

1. What is so scary with eye contact?

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First of all, why is it so scary to make eye contact with others?

Eyes are the windows to the soul. When we make eye contact with someone, it can be perceived as a threat.

We can notice eye contact from half a block away. It is what kept us from dying in the past– we give someone a wrong look from a neighboring tribe in the past, that might have meant death.

2. Eyes are windows to the soul

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When you look at someone and make eye contact– it is personal. It is uncomfortable. You can see the emotional state of someone through their eyes.

Not only that, but when you make eye contact, there is a level of intimacy. You can make eye contact with someone, and fall in love for the first time. On the other hand, it might make you feel uncomfortable– because you are not sure whether that person is sinister, or a potential new friend.

3. Overcoming the fear of eye contact

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For me, learning how to shoot street photography is overcoming the fear of eye contact. I remember I used to do eye-staring contests with friends. Whoever looked away the first was the loser.

I remember my friend Robin– who was really good at making eye contact with strangers, and not looking away. I have a vivid memory of us at In and Out, eating a hamburger, and he stared at someone through the window. That person made eye contact, and then immediately turned away.

Know that eye contact isn’t death. Practice making eye contact with people you love, or strangers– longer than you are used to.

4. Success = ability to make eye contact

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I think to build the confidence to have eye contact will help much in life:

  • Successful business-people can make good eye contact.
  • Successful relationships are based on good eye contact.
  • Successful photographers know how to capture the eye well– to capture the soul of their subjects.

5. How not to be afraid of eye contact

eric kim eye contact street portrait

Baby steps. Here are some suggestions:

a. Start off by being comfortable looking at yourself in the mirror:

Make eye contact with yourself. Are you comfortable at looking at yourself, into your own eye– and soul?

You can practice making self-portraits of yourself.

b. Start making eye contact with your loved ones:

Look into the eyes of your children, your partner, and your family members. Make eye contact with your friends. They will be comfortable with you.

c. Then start to make eye contact with strangers:

When they look back at you, give them a gentle smile — and say hello.

Conclusion

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Don’t be afraid of eye contact. It is the first step to conquering your fears in street photography, building more intimacy in your photos, and becoming a more confident person.

Always,
Eric

The Eye and Photography

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Learn more about the importance of the eye in photography:

Conquer your fears

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How to conquer your fears:

If you want assignments to conquer your fear of shooting street photography, read the free ebook: “31 Days to Overcome Your Fear in Street Photography