Why Fear Street Photography?

Man with flip phone. Tokyo, 2017
Dynamic and aggressive composition, because shot from low angle, which emphasizes the diagonal lines pointing to this man. Orange of his face against blue background. Tokyo, 2017
Man with flip phone. Tokyo, 2017
Man with flip phone. Tokyo, 2017

What are we so afraid of in street photography, and why are we afraid?

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What do we fear in street photography?

Woman with cell phone. Tokyo, 2017
Woman with cell phone. Tokyo, 2017

Some ideas:

First of all, we might be afraid of looking like a “creep”. We fear being seen as a pervert, and we fear that others will mistake our intentions.

In reality, we are documenting humanity to make art via street photography. Our fear: we will be seen as pedophiles and perverts.

Secondly, we fear physical, emotional, or mental harm from our subjects. We fear that someone is going to attack us physically. We fear that our subject will perhaps call the cops on us. We fear that they will curse at us, or call us bad names.

I’m on your side

Woman with umbrella in rain. Tokyo, 2017
Woman with umbrella in rain. Tokyo, 2017

To refute the first point: you are NOT a creep, pervert, or pedohpile. Realize as a visual artist, you will ALWAYS be misunderstood! All artists are misunderstood. And perhaps, the really good artists actually desire to be misunderstood.

To refute the second point, you are stronger than you think. You can take a punch. Your mental strength is stronger than you know. You are hard, a strong street stoic. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Fear is fun!

To take this further, the only reason why street photography is fun and enjoyable is precisely because it is so difficult and scary. Personally, it is my adrenaline rushes and delight in danger which excites me to make pictures in street photography.

If a street photograph isn’t scary for me to shoot, I generally don’t like to shoot it.

In other words, street photos that I want to shoot, yet scare me… are generally the pictures I desire to shoot. Not only that, but the scarier a street photograph is to shoot, the better it generally will be. The more dangerous a picture to shoot, the less common it is. And the more unique and rare your street photos, the better.

As a general rule, I follow this self-imposed rule in street photography:

If I see a scene or a person that scares me, I MUST photograph it.

Rather than running away from our fear, let us steel our nerves and LEAN INTO the fear. Don’t fear the pain. Harness, and channel the pain… and use that as a stimulus to INCREASE your strength, boldness, confidence in street photography.

BE STRONG,
ERIC

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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher