I have a proposal for you in life — make fear your slave.
I. FEAR tells us what we want to do
A lot of what we are afraid of is what we need to do in life.
For example, I think FEAR is part of you — something that you want to do— but you are too afraid to do.
II. Use FEAR in street photography (to your benefit)
For example, if you’re shooting in the streets, and you want to make a certain photograph but you are afraid or nervous. Your mind is telling you:
I want to make a photo of that person or scene, but I am afraid of the negative consequences.
So FEAR is a good thing to have in your life. Because FEAR is a good teacher— FEAR tells you what you need and want to do.
But what we need to eradicate is this hesitation or nervousness we have that prevents us from doing what we fear.
III. Photograph what you are scared of
I have a rule for me in street photography:
If I see a person or a scene that scares the shit out of me, I must photograph it.
So friend, an assignment I have for you is very simple:
For an entire week, whenever you see something that causes your heart rate to race, you must photograph it.
In easier words:
For a week, photograph what you are afraid of.
That means, walk in parts of town that you might otherwise not go. And of course don’t be dumb. Leave your expensive valuables at home (in case you get mugged).
But go down that alley that you might be otherwise afraid of. And if you see someone who scares you, talk to them. Treat them like a human being.
It is hard for us to realize — but every criminal was once a newborn child, helpless, crying, and had a mother that loved him or her.
If we saw all humans as our brothers and sisters, we would not be afraid of nobody.
IV. Don’t be dependent on substances to overcome your fears
A lot of people drink alcohol, smoke weed, or take some other drug to overcome their fear of social anxiety.
I think that is a crutch.
Of course, I have nothing against alcohol or weed or other (soft) drugs. But what I just think is this: if you are dependent on it, you are fucked. That means if you cannot shoot street photography or make social interaction without alcohol — you will weaken your will, strength, and courage.
I used to get fucked up in high school and college (drinking enough alcohol until I puked blood), but I (mostly) have given up drinking. I just don’t like the way it makes me feel. I hate hang-overs, and being Asian, I have a low tolerance anyways. I get ‘Asian Glow’ — when I turn red when I drink alcohol.
I don’t need alcohol. I have enough courage without alcohol. I don’t need it to feel more ‘relaxed.’ To me, the best way to relax is to put on some jazz hip hop music (NUJABES or RJD2) and chill and vibe out. I don’t need to roll up weed or a joint to relax in the evening. I would rather have engaging conversation with Cindy, or curl up on the couch with Cindy and watch a Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki Film (Spirited Away, Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle) and let my imagination wander.
V. But of course, when in doubt, drink more coffee
Sorry friend I got a bit distracted.
I do think a practical way to have more confidence in street photography is to have a double-shot of espresso before you hit the streets. I know for me, I see coffee as inspiration or motivation in a cup.
Even now, I have already drank 2 Vietnamese ‘Phin’ style-coffee (very strong), and I’m on a double-espresso. I am jamming out to Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” album (his ‘ELEMENT.’ song) — and I feel in the zone.
In this zone you have no fear. You have no concept of self. Like when I shoot street photography, I have no ego. If someone tells me to fuck off, I don’t take it personally. Because when I am shooting on the streets, I am no longer ‘ERIC KIM’ — I am just an organic being walking around with a camera in hand. So if I make a good photo or not doesn’t do anything (good or bad) to my ego. The photos almost take themselves.
VI. STOICISM x ZEN
To me, STOICS are the ultimate badasses. We give a middle-finger to fate, and like Nietzsche said— we learn to ‘AMOR FATI’ (to love our fate). That no matter how much pain and suffering we have in life, we don’t give one single fudge sandwich.
Rather, we use FEAR and OBSTACLES in life as our SLAVE. We are not afraid of fear and difficulties. Rather, we think of these opportunities as fuel for our inner-fire.
Another example: whenever I have a photo or image or blog post I want to share, and I feel that sharp dagger of fear in my side— I say:
And I share it.
Because whenever you have that half-second of doubt, your brain is telling you that you need to do it. You must do it.
VII. How to become more self-confident
If you have low courage, or self-confidence, I would say embrace the extreme.
As an experiment, for a week— become an ego-maniac. Build up your ego to the point that you are a self-centered asshole. Listen to a lot of KANYE WEST and JAY-Z. Listen to bragging rappers, and read a double-dose of SENECA and MARCUS AURELIUS to temper the brag-bravado.
It don’t matter whether you are a man or woman — you are a human being, with a beautiful gift to give to the rest of the world. If you are feeling meek and weak, and want to be more courageous and confident in life— for an entire week just “do you” — which means follow your own conscience, and don’t give one single fuck what others think of you.
VIII. BE HUMBLE
I like humility. I don’t like to go to a party and listen to someone talking about themselves for an hour. This is why when I meet people, I try not to speak about myself too much — because honestly, I already know everything I know. I am more greedy — I want to learn from others, because I think I can learn from everyone else. And I think that the more I listen to others, the more I can expand my mind, and to think more creatively.
But the problem is in today’s Judeo-Christian society, we are told to be HUMBLE so much — that we are beaten to submission. Whenever we say ‘I’ or ‘ME’ or express our opinion— we are told to shut the fuck up, and be more humble.
The truth is, I think true art and creativity comes from INDIVIDUALITY. Personally, all the philosophers I admire — none of them ‘collaborated’ in their philosophy. They stuck true to their own inner-voice and inner-genius, and didn’t ask others for an ‘opinion.’
The problem is nowadays, we are the slaves of opinion. We want everyone to like us. We upload photos to Instagram, hoping that we can maximize our likes, get more followers.
But we are afraid of offending others. I know for myself, whenever I said something true to myself (that pissed off other people) and I started to lose followers, or get negative comments — I felt like shit. I felt like a dog— getting whipped by my owner, and having someone put a muzzle on me. To have my slave-owner tell me:
Eric shut the fuck up.
And to be honest, that is how society keeps us in check. They tell us to sit down, shut up, do your homework, to do tests, to go to work on time, to save up and buy a house, to buy a BMW, to one day retire and travel the world at age 65. Society emasculates us, and society has us by the balls. Society has us enslaved to external markers of ‘success’ (like how many zeros and commas you have in your bank account, what purse you wear, what car you drive, what designer clothes are on your butt, and how many followers you have on instagram).
But in my opinion, the only way you can measure ‘SUCCESS’ in life is to look at yourself in the mirror every night and think to yourself:
Am I proud of myself?
Would my 12 year old self or 18 year old self be proud of me today?
And if not, what should I do differently in my life?
IX. WELCOME TO STREET CLUB
I want to start a new club— STREET CLUB. Where we don’t care about external markers of success. Where we care less about the opinions others have of our photos. That means, uploading fewer photos online.
That means, taking control of our own platform. To create our own self-hosted blogs (bluehost.com and use wordpress.org) and to blog about whatever we want. To upload however much (or however little) we want.
To not be a slave of Facebook or Instagram, or any other social media platform.
To not buy into this silly “I must upload a photo everyday at exactly 12pm, or else everyone will forget me, and I will not maximize my follower or like count.” Or this silly, “I cannot upload more than one photo a day, or else I will spam my followers, and people will start unfollowing me.”
In-fact, I have an anti-theory:
The more followers you lose, the more successful you are.
Go opposite. Whereas everyone else out there is trying to gain more followers, seek to lose more followers. That means you are doing something innovative, crazy, a bit reckless— but certainly interesting.
And to be anti-street photography. Don’t care whether others think your photos are ‘street photos’ or not. Just call them images.
Photograph whatever you want, however you want, process them however you want, and photograph them with whatever camera you have on you. Don’t Instagram photos of your camera and cappuccino. Rather, Instagram your favorite photos (and don’t care whether others will like your photos or not, but ask yourself whether you like the photo or not). Okay, just kidding— you can Instagram your coffee photos (as long as they are espressos — all black, no cream or sugar) #COFFEEFASCIST
X. Shoot like a big-ass kid with a camera
Above all friend— in street photography and life, be like Benjamin Button. Live life in reverse.
Imagine your life at age 90 on your death bed, and think to yourself:
What would I regret photographing and what would I regret not photographing?
Not only that, but as you get more experienced in photography — seek to become more childlike.
Be like a big ass kid with a camera. Think of your 2-year old self. If you had a smartphone camera, what would you photograph? What would you be curious about?
And always be like PABLO — be prolific with your art. Make more photos, and make more meaning with your life. And share what you think is great work— and don’t ask others what they think. Because the most important thing is whether you like your photos or not.
To conquer your fears and meet new peers, attend an upcoming ERIC KIM WORKSHOP.
Also for inspiration when you’re on the streets, pick up a copy of STREET NOTES.
Learn more: STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 101 >