Advice I wish I could have given myself, if I rebooted my entire street photography journey all over again:

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1. Disconnect

My biggest growth spurt happened when I disconnected. Disconnected from other street photographers online, and focused on myself. Creative isolation.

I discovered that too much of my thinking and approach was being negatively influenced by others. Too many contemporary street photographers were fighting over (what they thought) was a very small pie.

The practical thing I did was:

  1. Disconnect from social media: No more reading Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, online forums, etc. Focus shooting, thinking, and philosophizing on street photography and photography in general.
  2. Rethinking photography, creativity, and art from basics: Taking it back to “First principles”.
  3. Don’t think about conventions or customs, think about what you like or what you don’t like.

2. What does it mean to be an advanced street photographer?

Long range flash experiment.  Trix pushed to 1600
Long range flash experiment. Trix pushed to 1600. Manchester, 2015

My thought:

Being an advanced street photographer means to be ADVANCED in your thinking, approach, and philosophy.

To “advance” means to move forward. Best to think of it in military matters.

Advancing forward TOWARDS the enemy is good. But for yourself, to ADVANCE yourself in photography is:

  1. Advance your composition
  2. Advance your knowledge on the history of street photography, and the masters of street photography
  3. To have your own website/blog (WordPress.org) to share and display your work.

3. What’s your rank?

Suits street photography flash
Suits street photography flash. Kodak Portra 400.

Also perhaps to be an advanced street photographer means to be “more advanced” than you thought you were in the past.

Suits nyc. Portra 400.
Suits nyc. Portra 400.

For progression:

  1. Beginner street photographer
  2. Intermediate street photographer
  3. Advanced street photographer
  4. Master street photographer
  5. Demigod street photographer (applies to the dead. Henri Cartier-Bresson fits in this category, as he has built a cult following during and after his death)

How do you rank yourself? It’s up to you! You rank yourself. For myself I’d probably see myself in-between advanced and master street photographer.

How does one increase their ranking?

  1. Great industry (shooting a lot, experience, years)
  2. Slow and steady accumulation of skills
  3. Increased courage and self-confidence
  4. Increased skills and techniques
Suits nyc.

4. Think decades.

San Francisco, 2015. Two women
San Francisco, 2015

I started street photography when I was 18. I’m 31 now. It’s insane how time flies by so quickly.

And truth be told, I quite like the photos I shot from 2009 (literally 10 years ago!) when I was only 21 years old. Back then there wasn’t really social media for photography (Flickr was still pretty nascent), and it was mostly about “photo blogs”. I think I was really shooting for myself. I can see the innocence, rigor, and great effort I put into my photos from 2009:

Looking at these photos with older and more experienced eyes — I say they’re good! Simple and classical style (HCB inspired). The photos aren’t pretentious, nor are they trying to prove anything to anyone. I’m just trying to make the best possible visual images for myself.

5. Ignore everyone else

Tokyo, 2015 #ricohgrii
Tokyo, 2015 #ricohgrii

I am convinced:

The secret to success in life is to ignore everyone else — even people who mean you well.

Why? Because you’re a visionary! If you’re a visionary, you have a unique vision which nobody else shares with you. If I can count all my successes in my life (versus failures), I can say this:

  • I have successed in my life when I listened to myself and gut
  • My definition of ‘failure’ is only when I betray my own gut feeling, thoughts, or morals/ethics.

6. New thoughts on success in photography

Tokyo, 2017
Tokyo, 2017

“It’s all about progression — loiterers should be arrested.” – JAY Z

In photography terms, this means:

  1. Don’t let anyone else tell you how good or bad you are. If you just want honest feedback on your photos on how to improve, upload your photos to arsbeta.com. But remember with all feedback, you either ‘take it or leave it’– don’t take others’ feedback as truth.
  2. It is all about personal progression: Measure yourself against who you were as a photographer a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago, etc. Better to have infinite (slow and steady) gains than short-lived spurts. It is true that the tortoise will always out-win the hare.

7. Prove it to yourself.

Shooting layers and multiple subjects. Harajuku, Tokyo, 2016. 24mm on Lumix G9
Shooting layers and multiple subjects. Harajuku, Tokyo, 2016. 24mm on Lumix G9

Allow personal curiosity to guide you.

For example, I liked the photos of Alex Webb (shooting colors, layers, etc), and I wondered: can I do it myself?

Shooting layers on 35mm. Downtown LA, 2015 #portra400
Shooting layers on 35mm. Downtown LA, 2015 #portra400

Thus I experimented, and I could do it. And once I realized I could do it, the question was:

Now that I realize I can do it, does it still interest me?

I realized for myself —

Layers are cool and fun, but it ain’t really my ‘cup of tea’.

Why? I realized I preferred simpler aesthetics. I preferred simpler images. Instead of trying to ADD content to the frame, I was more interested in REMOVING content from the frame. To create the maximally powerful image with the minimal amount of things in the image.

Negative space, green and red. Harajuku alley. Tokyo.
Negative space, green and red. Harajuku alley. Tokyo.

8. Pursuing personal photo projects which you actually care about.

Flash suits. NYC.
Flash suits. NYC.

Another bias you will learn in photography:

In order to become a ‘serious’ photographer, thou must work on ‘serious’ photography projects.

I say:

Ignore this pretentious nonsensical advice.

The goal ain’t to become a ‘serious’ photographer. Why not? Because when you’re trying to become ‘serious’, you’re just playing to the biases of a bunch of pretentious, insecure, and bored individuals, who create an ivory castle of ‘status’. And everyone is trying to protect their own dung hill, or trying to boost their (low) self-esteem by putting other photographers down.

In other words,

Better to be a clown and jester in photography than to be regarded as ‘serious’ and ‘legitimate’.

9. Strive towards greatness

You dictate the degree of greatness you want to aspire to.

My personal goal:

Jump over Henri

Henri Cartier-Bresson right now is the benchmark, and I have my crosshairs on him.

Seoul flash, grimace.
Seoul flash, grimace.

What is your personal goal? Strive with all your might towards it!

ERIC


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