How Has This Negative Experience Made You Stronger as a Street Photographer?

Downtown LA, 2014
Downtown LA, 2014

It is inevitable. Sooner or later, someone will give you shit for taking their photograph. No matter how good your intentions are, there will always be someone who will be offended.

You can smile, be friendly, and use all the right techniques — but there are just some people who won’t respond positively.

There will be some people who will give you dirty looks, tell you to fuck off, or threaten to call the cops on you.

As a street photographer, these kinds of negative events come with the territory.

However we cannot 100% prevent negative events happening to us. Rather, we can change our interpretation of the event.

So for example, let’s say that you take a photograph of a stranger and they act very aggressively to you. Rather than feeling depressed from the experience, ask yourself: “How has this experience made me a stronger person?” Perhaps this negative experience helped you grow a thicker skin, perhaps it helped you deal with confrontation, or it has helped you build your confidence.

Let’s say that someone tells you that your photos suck, you have no talent, and no future in photography. Rather than letting these words hurt you, think of how their words can empower you. Perhaps you can take their negative critique with a grain of salt and ask yourself, “How can I objectively improve my photography and become the best photographer I can?”

Also remember this kind of experience can also help you grow a thicker skin in regards to negative criticism. Or you can remind yourself that getting overtly negative criticism is better than no criticism at all.

Let’s say that you haven’t seen any progress in your photography for a year. Rather than thinking: “I suck, I have no talent and will never become a great photographer”, perhaps you can think to yourself: “I’m glad that I haven’t reached my potential yet. My best work is ahead of me, and I haven’t hit my peak yet. At least I am critical of my work enough to know that I can achieve a lot more.”

Let all negative experiences, thoughts, and interactions empower you, rather than make you depressed.

Remember: iron only becomes steel with lots of heat and pressure applied. Diamonds can’t be made without pressure either.

But these things take a long time. Diamonds take lots of pressure (and a long period of time to form). With enough waves, the ocean can turn the biggest boulder into the smallest grain of sand.

So rather than trying to avoid confrontation and negative experiences, try to seek them head-on. If you’re afraid of being rejected when it comes to street photography, purposefully try to seek to get rejected (seek scary looking people). If you hate getting negative criticism on your work, ask people: “I’m trying to become the best photographer I can, help me kill my babies.”

Be strong, be brave, and be you. Life is a valley of thorns, and there isn’t anything we can do about it, but put on a pair of sandals. We can control our emotional resilience like putting on an iron plate to shield us from the piercing arrows of everyday life.

Now go forth and create art that you were destined to create!

If you enjoyed this article, I recommend you read the book: “Letters from a Stoic” and also check out my free e-book: “Letters from a Street Photographer“.