Cindy peeking through the curtain. Kyoto, 2017

Why I Love Grit and Grain

Cindy peeking through the curtain. Kyoto, 2017
Cindy peeking through the curtain. Kyoto, 2017

I love grit, I love grain.


DOWNLOAD PDF: Why I Love Grit and Grain

I hate perfection

Aesthetically, I think grain is sublime. It better expresses what I am feeling, and what is in my mind’s eye.

I hate pictures that are cold and clinical. These pixel-peepers, have me feeling cynical.

I love grain and grit; because it helps me remind myself, ‘Memento Mori‘– all is slowly fading and dying, I gotta remind myself– ‘Eric, don’t lie to yourself. You’re gonna die one day, you’re not going to live forever. Even though you’re healthy now, the weather isn’t always gonna be good. So don’t waste your life– devote it to help serving others, and hustle for posterity.’

I love grit and grain, because texture and the ‘haptic feedback’ we get from rough, and irregular surfaces is what makes us more human, and probably more intelligent. I love textured paper, I disdain touching perfectly smooth glass screens. I love the spongy response from a laptop keyboard, instead of the hesitant autocorrect from the phone or tablet.

I love grain, because it reminds me– life ain’t picture-perfect. Grain, noise, irregularity, and mistakes is what makes us human. Life is rough, gritty, and textured. Life shouldn’t be made clinical — by removing every rough edge or bump. I much prefer looking at the ‘fractal’ designs of the architecture Antoni Gaudi — compared to anything cold and lifeless from Le Corbusier.

Grit and Grain in Photography

Woman with self-portrait of herself. Downtown LA, 2011.
Woman with self-portrait of herself. Downtown LA, 2011.

That is what initially drew me into the photographs of Josef Koudelka, William Klein, and Daido Moriyama. They were anti-sharpness, anti ‘descriptive‘ pictures. They weren’t about making these hyper-sharp, hyper-detailed images of reality. Rather, they understood that real life was gritty and RAW– and sought to describe that reality through their raw and gritty pictures.

William Klein innovated with his use of blur, unorthodox printing techniques (to add radial zooms to his pictures), and would shoot wide-angle, get close, and add more dynamism, sex, and rock and roll to his pictures. He was ANTI Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was all about the picture-perfect geometry of 50mm, and clean edges.

My aesthetic vision

Portrait of ERIC KIM by CINDY NGUYEN. Kyoto, 2017
Portrait of ERIC KIM by CINDY NGUYEN. Kyoto, 2017

ERIC KIM STYLE — I’m constantly changing and evolving.

But there seems to be something deep in my artistic soul– that I love punchy colors, contrasty and gritty monochromes, and grit & grain is part of my photographic lexicon.

This is why I am anti-bokeh, anti-sharpness, and anti-megapixels. I could give fewer fucks about ‘image quality‘ — I am more about shooting with my body and soul. Even though others think my technique and images are shoddy, I like to blast my images with visceral appeal– like a sawed-off shotty (shot-gun).

What is photography all about again, anyways?


When my viewer looks at my pictures, I want them to FEEL something. I want to EVOKE something in their mind and bodies. I want to STIR them to think of the world in a more critical way, to be more skeptical, but also to MOTIVATE them to MAKE MORE OF THEIR OWN ART! After all, one of the biggest reasons I promote the use of shooting with phone and RICOH GR II (a $600 camera) is because it reminds us,

I don’t need expensive gear to make good pictures– which evokes a sense of wonderment, awe, and excitement about life.

I want photography to be used as a tool of EMPOWERMENT. I want the camera to make us more BRAVE, more courageous, and to take MORE RISKS in life.

Why street photography is the best.

In-fact, street photography is just artistic risk-taking. Taking a street photograph is fucking scary. And with more risk, comes more reward.

Therefore, all street photographers are entrepreneurial risk-takers, and entrepreneurial picture-makers. We are visual entrepreneurs.

It ain’t scary to take a picture of a flower or a landscape. Taking photographs of other people, especially strangers– no matter how good your camera is, no matter how many megapixels your camera has, no matter how high the dynamic range, no matter how sharp the lens, no matter how much detail, no matter the size or the weight– isn’t going to help you become more confident to take pictures of people.

Ultimately, the only thing to help build courage in your heart and soul — is… yourself.


This is just another ramble, random stream-of-consciousness of why I love shooting JPEG, why I prefer gritty aesthetics, and why I promote photography (as a way of character development, and confidence-building).

Here are some general take-aways:

  1. STREET PHOTOGRAPHY as ‘visual entrepreneurship’ — taking risks, to make good pictures. The bigger the risks you take in street photography, the bigger the reward.
  2. Disdain higher megapixels and higher sharpness in cameras– prefer shittier cameras, with more RAW and gritty aesthetics. For example, experiment shooting JPEG in your camera, and processing your photos to look wild. Download FREE ERIC KIM PRESETS.
  3. Shoot with your body and soul — don’t shoot with your brain. There is more artistic intelligence in your body and soul and gut– at least when you’re in the process of making pictures in the streets. Reserve your brain-power, perhaps when you go home and look through your pictures, and deciding which pictures to ‘keep’ and which pictures to ‘ditch.’ If uncertain about which pictures to keep or ditch, post your images to ERIC KIM FORUM.

And remind yourself– you’re in a constant state of becoming as a photographer and artist. There is no ‘final destination.’ Everyday, treat yourself like in a state of evolution.

  • Everyday, your visual antennae are becoming more sensitive, and more perceptive.
  • Everyday, your legs and muscles for movement are getting stronger– allowing you to move around more, walk more for longer periods of time, and see more ‘decisive moments’ to capture.
  • Everyday, you are getting faster and more nimble in terms of your reflexes. The most important thing for a street photographer is to be fast, nimble, aggressive when necessary, and most important of all — TO HAVE NO HESITATION!

For more personal motivation to take your street photography and confidence to the next level, join ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE.



Hot off the digital press, we have now made our popular STREET NOTES available for your Amazon Kindle. A ‘Workshop in your pocket,’ STREET NOTES will take your photography to the next level with challenging assignments and lessons.

Now Street Notes Mobile Edition in our shop will include two file formats (PDF for all devices and MOBI for Kindle).


A poem on why I love grit and grain:

I Love Grit, I Love Grain

I can’t even explain why it makes me feel so good
It feels the same like rubbing my fingers against jagged wood
I know I should
Pixel peep and care about the megapixels
Or buy the cameras with the newest bells and whistles
But I love the rough, smooth, and imperfect
Imperfection is true beauty; its worth it

I love imperfection
Its like cursive
Hard to read; but every word is
Filled with beauty and grace
I can see the author’s own face
In his penmanship
I imagine
Him dipping his pen
Into the pit of ink
Letting his ideas flow
Straight out of the kitchen sink
Or faucet

When I shoot photos
I shoot lossless
Or lossy
Whatever I do; I hate my pictures glossy

I like pictures that toss me
Left and right
I like pictures that wipe
Away my tears
helps me overcome my fears
And helps connect me closer with my peers.

When I make pictures
It encourages me to veer
Towards the random; towards the unknown
To shoot high-contrast chrome
To make my eyes bleed
With vivid colors
Nice shades of green

I like my colors playing in high fidelity
Pictures that make me feel

Pictures that scream, ‘Explore more– I SHOULD!’

Pastel pinks
Azure blue
Tangerine oranges
The papers can’t hold the colors
That my eyelids could

No matter how good the sensor
The ultimate stopping point is the human eye
Visual perception —
The world is a false disguise

False reality; what’s real and fake?
Don’t take pictures; make pictures
Paint what is in your mind’s eye
With your visual imagination
There is no ceiling
So friends, together let’s fly high.



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