Portrait by Frank Steltzer

Dear friend,

In this chapter of STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MANUAL, let us talk about the theoretical framework of becoming a badass street photographer, aka, a STREET STOIC.

Download PDF >

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism is a philosophy that pre dates Christianity. Stoicism has been around for longer than 2,000 years.

The stoic philosophers to know include Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

During 2,000 years ago, life was uncertain. People died all the time, from war, famine, disease, and political upheaval. They needed a philosophy that addressed the difficulty of living with confidence in an uncertain world.

Fast forward to today. We live in a much more stable world. Yet, many of us still live in fear.

Street photography is fucking scary. When you make a photo of a stranger, you are taking a risk. You have the risk of pissing them off, getting punched, or who knows, even beat up.

So how can you build a stoic armor against your fears in street photography? Let me share what has worked for me.

1. Learn how to take a punch

Typical scene from the movie Fight Club: learning not to be afraid of physical pain and taking a punch.

Today, we are weak. We have no spine. We are afraid of pain. We are made weak and flabby by luxury and this lust for comfort.

I think everyone, men and women, should learn how to take a punch. Why? When you do get punched, it actually isn’t so painful. I used to box in my garage with my friends at age 16 for fun, and got punched a lot and even knocked unconscious. It wasn’t that bad. Actually, a bit fun.

Of course I still get scared when I shoot street photography. But I get a lot less scared now than I did in the past. Why? Because I learned and trained myself to take a punch. Take a mental punch. An insult. Empty threats from subjects saying they will call the cops on me.

To build confidence in street photography, signup for a boxing class. Get punched a few times. Rinse out your mouth with watery blood, and a few loose teeth. You will be ok.

2. Don’t fear rejection

To be a STREET STOIC, is to love to take risks. The more risks you take, the more strong you will become, and the less fear you will have.

Assignment one: learn to love rejection.

To do this, ask a bunch of strangers to make their portrait. You gotta keep asking until you get 10 people to say “no.” One you get 10 rejections, you will be a lot less afraid of rejection.

Fear of rejection is what holds back our potential in life. For example, fear of rejection from that potential date. Fear of rejection of asking for a raise. Fear of rejection of having your photos featured in a gallery.

Simple solution:

Just ask.

It’s so simple. If you start to love to ask and don’t fear rejection (actually anticipate rejection), you will never feel disappointed.

To sum up, a STREET STOIC always expects to get rejected, but asks anyways. But when they get rejected, they don’t feel bitter or sad. They simply move “onto the next one” with a smile.

3. Focus on your actions not the results

A STREET STOIC says “fuck you” to fate. A STREET STOIC knows they have control over their fate.

But at the same time, a STREET STOIC will never feel disappointed, especially when things don’t go their way.

My suggestion for you in street photography: focus on the effort and hustle you out in, never the results.

For example, you can control whether you shoot for 8 hours on a Saturday, and work really hard. You cannot control whether you get a good shot or not.

As an entrepreneur, you can work 120 hour weeks. But whether your business takes off or not, isn’t 100% in your control.

But a good STREET STOIC knows, the harder you work, the more likely you will hit a home run. The more likely you will make a good photo, or have a good time.

So once again,

Focus on your effort in street photography, not the results.


A STREET STOIC is you. Never complain, or feel fear. You are stronger than you think. I believe in you.

So friend, put on your bronze STOIC STREET ARMOR, and know that the puny wooden arrows of fate cannot pierce or harm you.





Your personal guide to street photography, presented by your guide ERIC KIM: