Hanoi, 2017. Shoot on Ricoh GR and 28mm lens.


Hanoi, 2017

Dear friend, let’s continue our conversation in STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MANUAL, now discussing how you can get into a good street photography flow.

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The Zen of Street Photography

Sapa, 2016

Street photography is also walking meditation for me. I love to go and enjoy my street photography walk, letting myself tune out the crazy world.

For me, street photography is the best way to overcome anxiety, depression, and boredom.

I remember when I was in my boring office job, I would enjoy walking around the block with my camera in hand, just for 15 minutes and I’d feel a lot less stressed (even with 200 emails waiting to be responded to).

Street photography is also good for our physical health. It gives us an excuse to walk more. And the more we walk the more street photos we shoot, and the more likely we are to make a good photo.

Why street photography?

Hanoi, 2017

For me it ain’t about making photos, it’s about making meaning in life.

Many of us lack a sense of purpose or direction in our lives. Photography helps give us that focus.

Consider: in photography, you have to “focus” on what to photograph. In life, you also need to “focus” on what is important to you.

For me, this is what is important in my life:

  • Doing meaningful work that helps others
  • Empowering my friends and family
  • Supporting Cindy

Pretty simple.

For me, this is how street photography helps me focus on my life goals:

  • Street photography is mental therapy for me. So I like to “preach the gospel” of street photography with others, keeping it open, free, and empowering.
  • Street photography has helped me earn money and wealth. I share that with my friends and family. I’m also trying to teach entrepreneurship to teach others how to help themselves.
  • Street photography has helped me build courage, so now I have the courage to fight societal norms and support Cindy.

What don’t you photograph?

Seoul, 2009

I also think in street photography, knowing what not to photograph is more important than what to photograph.

For example, I personally don’t like to photograph homeless people. I still do it every once in a while, but I usually talk to them, or give them some money.

I typically don’t like to shoot candid photos of homeless because in my heart, it feels like exploitation. It’s like I’m taking their shitty position in life, to make my own selfish “artful critique of society.”

While I am a social critic, I wanna make change. So all of my photography has a social aim.

For my “Suits” project, it was about uncovering the bullshit of searching for money and wealth as a dead end for happiness.

For my “Only in America” series, it shows a general sense of malaise, of competency, lack of growth, and sadness.

Therefore, even though I’m an optimist at heart, my photos are fucking depressing.

Lately, I’ve been during to shoot more “positive photography”, photos that uplift the hearts and souls of my viewers. I’ve been photographing a lot of “laughing ladies” as a tool of empowerment.

How do you feel when shooting street photography?

NYC, 2016

Does street photography make you feel good, or stressed and anxious?

For me, shooting street photography gives me a calm sense of joy and elation. I walk slower, contemplate more thoughts, and talk to more strangers on the street. I generally feel happier and more joyful than when compared to reading news and getting angry over politics.

Street photography is also good for me, because it allows me to be creative everyday. Making photos is easy. Making street photos is accessible everywhere. I just take a step outside, and I can start shooting.

When I shoot in the streets, I don’t censor myself. I just photograph what interests me. I also try not to hesitate. Whenever I hesitate, I lose my mojo and zest for shooting a scene. I lose confidence and courage.

So my mantra when I shoot is:

When in doubt, click.

Also, street photography makes me more adventurous. Everyday life is like a vinyl record, with the same grooves that are etched into your brain. True innovation in photography and life is all about creating new grooves, or by paving a new path in life.

Street photography encourages me to go down that random alley and to “flaneur”, or wander down mysterious roads. It encourages spontaneity in my life, which is always fun and exciting. Life is too much like a prison. I want more danger, randomness, and unpredictability. Street photography helps me achieve that in a practical way.

Conclusion: Dance in the streets

Hanoi, 2016

Treat street photography as Zen training for your mind. Street photography to me is a way of being, of creating, and exploring. It’s my compass in life.

Street photography encourages me to be a little less timid, bored, or scared in everyday life. It empowers me to wander, explore my personal limits, with no glass ceiling or boundaries.

How has street photography helped you find more happiness and joy in life? Share your thoughts in ERIC KIM FORUM