A Lone Dinner
"A Lone Dinner" - Los Angeles 2009

One of the questions that I am asked quite often is, “How did you get over your fear of shooting in public?” To answer that question, I got over it by simply going out and constantly shooting in public. However it definitely does take a lot of practice and effort to build up that courage of shooting in the streets without feeling like a “creeper” or out-of-place.

For those of you who may not know, I recently graduated UCLA with a B.A. in Sociology. Therefore when it comes to photography, a lot of my sociological thoughts get intertwined as well. In many introduction sociology classes, teachers often assign students “breaching experiments,” which involve doing things which violate certain “social norms” which may make you and others feel uncomfortable. However I have found that by realizing that these social norms which govern everyday life are not concrete and can be bent to our whim, I quickly got over my fear of shooting in public.

A Lone Dinner
"A Lone Dinner" - Los Angeles 2009 - Eric Kim

Therefore these are some sociology breaching experiments that I have put together which could help you first get over your fear of looking “strange” or “awkward” in breaking social norms (such as taking photos of strangers in public). Although these may seem quite easy on the surface, doing them in practice is actually quite difficult. I have been making it a point to practice these breaching experiments as often as I could, and I can admit that I still have a long way to go until I could have enough courage like street photographer Bruce Gilden, who is famous of taking really up close and personal images of people. [YouTube].

Bruce Gilden, New York City, 1986
Bruce Gilden, New York City, 1986

5 Sociology Breaching Experiments:

  1. Make eye contact with strangers and do not look away. If they stare back, smile and see how they respond.
  2. When entering an elevator, turn the opposite way, even when everyone is facing the “right” way.
  3. When walking down a busy street, suddenly put your things aside and lie on the ground for five seconds. Then stand up and walk away.
  4. Smile and wave at a random stranger. See how they react.
  5. Now take out your camera and take a photo of a random stranger. Observe what happens.

Help get the word out there and share this list with your fellow photographer friends! Post it to Facebook, your blog, or even tweet it!