On Friendship and Street Photography

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The last two weeks I have spent in Istanbul with my good friend Charlie Kirk. I first met Charlie around two years ago in Paris– and since then we have shot together, had good food and drinks together, critiqued each others’ photos, taught together, and met others together.

During many of my other travels I also had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible people during my life’s journey.

I interviewed Josh White about a month or two ago– and one of the questions I asked him is why he shoots street photography. He told me that it was the friendships that he made through street photography is what mattered to him the most.

I often think about why I shoot street photography and what it means to me. After thinking about it for a long and hard time I have come to the realization that I am not interested in making myself a famous photographer. Rather, I want to showcase the talent and work of my friends and other street photographers out there, promote the genre of street photography, and to build and nurture friendships along the way.

In a previous post I wrote “On Travel and Street Photography” I wrote how I have been starting to feel a bit estranged by traveling so much. To me, friendship is one of the most important things in my life. But as Seneca wrote, “One who travels all the time has many acquaintances, but no friends.”

It is true– to create a meaningful friendship with someone is like planting a tree. You start off with it being a little seedling, and you must constantly nurture it with sunlight, water, care, attention–picking out the weeds and bugs that may attack it. With enough slow growth and love– it grows up to be a formidable and un-moveable tree.

I have made many acquaintances during my travels- but I have also been blessed to make some meaningful friends. I won’t name all of them here (but you know who you are).

When I shoot street photography, I don’t like to shoot alone. For me, street photography is a social activity. Similarly to Garry Winogrand, I like meeting up with other photographers chatting about photography, going out and shooting together, eating food and drinking coffee together, sharing and critiquing our work, and enjoying good laughs and company with one another.

People often ask me where my favorite places in the world are to shoot street photography. Whenever they ask me this– it is never about the places I visit (in terms of the food, culture, sights, etc). Rather– I always judge the places I visit based on the people I meet. It is the people that I meet that matter the most to me, rather than the place itself.

Some of the most memorable trips I had was when I stayed with friends for a week or two– spending nearly 24/7 with them– fully engaged about photography (while getting to know one another personally).

Who cares if I have a million followers on social media? To me, having a small circle of friends that appreciate, critique, and help drive my work forward is much more than the hundreds of “favorites”, “likes”, and “nice shots” I get online.

I have been having so much fun the last two years traveling, having new experiences, and meeting new people (and creating some longer-term friendships). However at the same time– part of my soul wants to be planted in the ground. I want to start lying down roots. I want to get to really spend more time with local photographers and help out the local photography community (wherever I live).

For the next year, I plan on ramping down my travel schedule and teaching fewer workshops (and more domestic workshops in the states) so I can put down these roots. I want to do more collaborations with local photographers, galleries, bookstores, while also being close to my close friends and family.

I know many of you who are reading this article are quite active on social media whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, etc. I always get asked “how do I get more followers?”

Rather than focusing on getting more followers- focus on nurturing the connections you already have. To have 3 close street photography friends who truly understand your work, want you to become better, and give you good feedback is far more important than getting lots of comments asking you “nice, which camera did you use?”

If you don’t know any local street photographers around you– I encourage you to branch out. Try to join some local meet up groups or start one by yourself. Perhaps start a monthly meet-up where local street photographers are able to bring in their work, get it critiqued, and having fun talking about street photography. Shoot together- and give each other confidence and “backup” when on the streets.

And most important of all- nurture your friendships and make it something beautiful.

Collaborate, don’t compete when it comes to street photography– and everyone wins.

A short list of people I would like to personally thank

Below is a short list of some people I would like to individually thank. I am sorry, so many people have helped me over the years — I sincerely apologize if I didn’t personally mention you below. But that doesn’t mean I still appreciate everything you have done for me :)

  • Todd: For first reaching out to me when I got laid off, and all of the support you have given me over the years. Also for getting my feet wet in film with your Leica M6!
  • Rinzi: For always keeping an open ear to me, and for being a great fellow teacher and friend.
  • Dana: For sharing our love of film, and always reminding me to be humble and passionate.
  • Medhi: For the great positive attitude and outlook in life, and always keeping it real.
  • Joel: For always supporting me whether it be hanging out, coming out to workshops, and always being the dependable critic I can always get honest feedback from.
  • Jason: For always helping out at workshops, always being kind and generous, and holding it down for the LA streettogs.
  • Jacob: For always inspiring me with your art, helping the street photography community, and always being a wellspring of great ideas.
  • Jeff: For the epic trip to Manila, for introducing me to great people, and for having the most uplifting laugh.
  • Erin: For helping me aspire to be as badass as you, and for always being a dependable friend.
  • Danh: For always keeping me in the loop with anything photography related and always making me feel comfortable to just chat!
  • Daniel Sawyer: For keeping up the hustle and always inspiring me to do more with my photography!
  • Ben: For taking street photography seriously – and always focusing on your work and inspiring me!
  • Michael Rickey: For always supporting me, and making that long ass commute to visit all the time!
  • Ibarionex: For helping me start off in my photography, for always giving me support and advice, as well as inspiring me to see the light.
  • Darren: For alawys keeping it real, great to chat with and talk photography with, and always staying in style!
  • Beverly: For watching my back, no matter what.
  • Neil: For being the best manager and friend a guy can ask for- and helping me take my street photography blog and business to the next level.
  • Christopherr: For always inspiring me with your design, cool attitude, and for being a chill mofo.
  • Tas: For being the most generous human being I have ever met- and for showing me how to be more humanistic.
  • Kevin Rodmell: For being one of my most enthuasitic students, and for always giving me confidence and support for my blog and work.
  • Adam Marelli: For giving me so much advice and insight into the art of photography, and for always helping me find my own voice and style- and shielding me from the haters.
  • Richard Bram: For being one of the most personable people I have met -and for pushing the genre of street photography forward.
  • Souvik: For helping me set up my first workshop there, for always being down to help support me.
  • Jason: For being a great co-teacher, and holding down the street photography for Chicago.
  • Brian: For always raising insightful discussions about street photography, and challenging my own views.
  • Satoki: For your serious, deep, and philosophical ideas on photography – and for making me consider to make my photogaphy say more on a humanistic perspective.
  • A.G. DeMesa: For helping support me since day one, for helping connect me to all other street photographers around the world, and for making your passion for street photography contagious!
  • Ryan Liu: For being a great friend while at East Lansing, and supporting me and Cindy and always being there for us.
  • Matthew McCord: For giving Cindy and I a place to stay, and sharing that southern hospitality!
  • Steve Brokaw: For being the most hospitable host ever, and showing us what Indy has to offer!
  • Kenneth Pape: For making Cindy and I fall in love with New Orleans, and giving me a fresh new perspective to life.
  • Brian Day: For being one of the most humble, supportive, and amazing people ever. You taught me to take my photography more seriously, while always being my PR agent (haha just partially kidding!) And for holding it down for the D.
  • Jon DeBoer: For having the most awesome beard, showing me the soul of Detroit, and always being a solid guy.
  • KP: For bringing me to India, and showing the beauty that it has to offer photographically and culturally. And for always helping critique my photography positively to help me develop and grow.
  • Sutirtha: For the endless support, energy, passion, and friendship.
  • Gary Tyson: For the great fun nights out, time shooting, and great teaching for street photographers in Hong Kong. You made me truly experience the city in a beautiful way.
  • Jong: For inviting me into your home, supporting my photography, and for also inspiring me to get as buff as you!
  • Adam Rahim: For always letting me bunk it with you, showing me Australia like home (and in Singapore), and the epic Chicken rice lah!
  • Eddie: For letting me crash with you in Melbourne (on such short notice), for the great coffee, and for the great friendship.
  • Kevin Wy Lee: For always being an inspiration, and running IPA like it were your child- and pushing visual journalism and street photography forward.
  • Callan: For holding it down for Singapore, and working hard with all of the other shooters there to make beautiful art.
  • ABC: For keeping your photography open and democratic- and inspiring all those around you.
  • Norman: For having an outpouring of passion for photography, and keeping film alive!
  • Danny: For inspiring me with your portraits, for always sharing your humility, while making me want to be more creative.
  • Nick Susatyo: For always sharing inspirational resources with me, and inspiring me to do more with the blog!
  • Michael Baranovic: For being an epic host in Melbourne, for showing me the power of mobile photography, and for pushing street photography to be more democratic.
  • Olly Lang: For your burning passion for street photography, disregard for petty conventions, and making me feel at home in Sydney.
  • Thomas Leuthard: For helping me achieve my dream of going to Lebanon and teaching my first workshop for you. And for all you have done in supporting me and the street photography with your open source approach.
  • Mattias: For inviting me back to Stockholm, for always being generous, and being a great friend to lean on!
  • Ola: For your great personality, superb medium-format color work, and for your passion for street!
  • Brian Sparks: For being one of the most incredible creative human beings ever–and making me really want to take my blog to the next level. Mad love bro.
  • Magnus: For helping promote photography in Sweden, and always being a great support too!
  • Yves: For being the warmest friend while at Marseille, showing us the good life with great wine, conversation, food, and showing me the light there!
  • Damien Rayuela: For being my best friend in Paris, for connecting me to so many inspriational photographers, and for promoting the love of photo journalism!
  • Trevor: For all of the great times in Korea, and congratulations on your new baby!
  • Alex Finch: For the great chats on photography and hang out session- and your mad style.
  • Luke Ding: For being the best host in KL, and bringing me together closer with the community there. And the bomb food!
  • Huseyin: For always being the most hospitable host in Istanbul, and sharing those beautiful books!
  • Oguz: For welcoming me to Istanbul, and showing me more of what the city has to offer!
  • Bellamy Hunt: For being a great mentor, friend, and promoter of film. I am so happy for you and your new baby and family, and I know you will always be a pillar in the photo community.
  • Mijonju: For your epic hair, infectious attitude, and outpouring of energy.
  • Charlie: For being the most enigmatic person in my life – who has always inspired me since the begining to take my street photography blog as a serious platform- and helping me become who I am today the last few years through your advice, support, and constructive critique. And always being loyal when nobody else wanted to support me.
  • Michael Nguyen: For being a down to earth , real mofo, who was always a pleasure to kick it with, regardless of where or what we did!
  • Hiroaki: For being the most open, generous, loving, and humble person I have ever met. Thanks so much for your hospitality and love from you and papa!
  • Sean Lotman: For keeping my passion for film alive, for showing me the beauty of Kyoto, and inspiring me with your words.
  • Junku: For the awesome dance moves, nostalgic photography, which always inspires me to do more with my photography.
  • Jano Laskor: For being so warm with me in your home in London, helping me stay strong against the haters, and for always having my back.
  • Jason: For bringing me to the UK, for your words of encouragement early on- and your amazing full english breakfasts!
  • JJ: For helping connect me with Leica, and always inviting me to these great parties, and giving me the opportunity to collaborate and contribute.