What is Your Unique Angle as a Photographer?

Cindy hands. Angle.

Cindy hands. Angle.

To succeed as a modern photographer, you must discover your unique angle.

The secret to success as a modern photographer

Cindy with hands over her face. Saigon, 2017

I was chatting with my buddy Mitya Trotsky last night, and he gave me the idea:

To stand out as a modern photographer, you need a certain ‘angle’.

What makes your angle unique?

For example, you want to have ‘meaningful differentiation’ between you and other photographers. You need a unique perspective, or angle.

What makes your artistic perspective unique? What can you see, that nobody else sees?

Why angles are important

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Even if you think about photography, to make a good picture, you need a good (figurative) angle.

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.

For example in composition, you can make a dynamic picture with a low-angle picture, or a high-angle picture. Or making it dynamic from the side, from having a side-angle. Or even a head-on angle.

DYNAMIC ANGLE: Very low angle and perspective composition.
DYNAMIC ANGLE: Very low angle and perspective composition.

If you study physics and geometry, it is all about angles. Angles is what creates triangles, forms, bridges, and is the root of understanding kinetic energy.

Circular angles.

Dutch angle staircase. Ueno, Tokyo 2017
Dutch angle staircase. Ueno, Tokyo 2017

And to make a compelling picture you must always photograph it with a compositionally dynamic angle.

High angle shot of red and green crosswalk. Shibuya, Tokyo 2017
High angle shot of red and green crosswalk. Shibuya, Tokyo 2017. Green on bottom of the frame, and red on top-right of the frame.

So add more compositional angles to your pictures.

Eric Kim photography Bauhaus Piet Mondrian

There’s only one of you

Beta Cover for “The Modern Photographer” by ANNETTE KIM / HAPTICPRESS
Beta Cover for “The Modern Photographer” by ANNETTE KIM / HAPTICPRESS

You must be a personality. You must be a unique individual. You cannot be another needle in the haystack.

You are the red circle, in a sea of grey squares.

Don’t be shy. Be proud and loud of what makes you different, and broadcast it loudly.

How to find your angle

Cindy with elbows flared outwards.
Cindy. Saigon, 2017

Now a more tricky task: how do you identify your angle, or what makes you unique?

Like for myself, I find it unique that I studied sociology and also learned photography on my own.

Therefore, I’m not really a photographer, or street photographer. I’m a ‘visual sociologist.’

Suit and yellow flowers. Hong Kong, 2014
Suit and yellow flowers. Hong Kong, 2014

This can be my angle:

I don’t seek to make pictures, I seek to make human connections.

This is because I studied sociology, which is all about understanding individuals, social dynamics, and humanity at large.

Cross-pollination

This can also be thought of in a ‘cross-pollination’ mindset.

What various interests of yours can you mix, and integrate it into your photographic and visual art to make yourself have a unique angle or perspective on the world?

For example, Sebastião Salgado studied economics, but instead of writing dry papers on inequality of economic opportunity, he decided to travel and photograph it instead. In a way, his angle was that of an economist meets photographer. He’s making social commentary and critique on the globalization of cheap labor in his ‘WORKERS’ book.

Woman flexing bicep and pointing to it.

What are you trying to say?

Cindy and hands.

Also, try to consider — what are you trying to say with your pictures?

London man with French fry.
Suit with French fry. London, 2012.

For example, in my SUITS project, I wanted to make a critique on the rat race, the pressure to make more money to seek ‘happiness’, and that freedom is more valuable than money.

For me, the message I’m trying to share is more important than the pictures.

In other words,

Figure out what you want to say about society, the world, or life — then figure out how you can make pictures to communicate your message.

Case study: CINDYPROJECT

Cindy in blue Yukata. Uji, Kyoto 2017
Cindy in blue Yukata. Uji, Kyoto 2017

Another example:

I was inspired by my friend Josh White who taught me that photographing your loved ones is more important than photographing strangers.

Cindy yukata uji sketch trace.

Cindy is my muse, artistic partner, and soulmate. I have such deep love and appreciation for her — and I wanted to encourage others to appreciate their loved ones as much as I do for Cindy. I therefore started the ‘CINDYPROJECT’ as a way to tell people:

Your loved ones are valuable. Photograph them, to feel more appreciation towards them.

It is my ambition and goal for everyone to start their own cindyproject.

Cindy yukata uji sketch trace.

Therefore, my goal was to show my love for Cindy, and I decided photography would be a good medium for that. I didn’t seek to make nice pictures of Cindy, and then falling in love with the pictures of her. I love Cindy more than the pictures I make of her.

Reflection of Cindy in Ukata in our Ryokan in Uji, Kyoto 2017
Reflection of Cindy in Ukata in our Ryokan in Uji, Kyoto 2017

Assignment: What is your angle?

Red lines.

So friend, what is your unique angle?

To discover your unique angle in photography, write down a list of your unique interests. Write down what you studied in school, or what you really wanted to study, but didn’t have the opportunity to study (or your parents didn’t let you).

Graph. Composition.

For example, for myself I would write:

  • Computer science
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Science
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Diet, exercise, fitness

Then think of how you can cross-pollinate, or make a hybrid concept with that and your photography.

Then to ‘brand yourself’ start simple: marry two concepts together.

So once again,

Sociology + Photography = Visual Sociology (or ‘street photography’)

Have fun, and figure out your own visual mathematics.

BE YOU,
ERIC


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