At this point, I feel like a mini-master in street photography. Here is the advice I will give you on your personal journey:

Master Street Photography at Your Own Pace

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1. Spare no expense; turn over all the rocks

Tokyo, 2011. Leica M9 x 21mm Lens
Dark Skies over Tokyo. Leica M9 x 21mm Lens

Okay so this is the thing — when you start street photography, you’re going to read a lot of mumbo jumbo on the internet when it comes to street photography. What to do, what not to do. The ideal gear and equipment, etc.

To be frank, I cannot trust anyone on the internet. I only trust the dead masters of photography, and the few living masters.

Furthermore, NEVER TRUST or listen to the advice of a photography/art curator, commentator, or “critic”. Ignore any words regarding street photography from anyone who ISN’T a real practitioner of street photography. It is one thing to theorize; another to do.

Dark Skies over Tokyo / RICOH GR II x FLASH

2. Cultivate your own taste

“Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of taste.” – Steve Jobs

Apparently the notion of ‘taste’ is also linked to the notion of ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’ (ancient Greeks. I read this anecdote in Nietzsche).

When it comes to your taste in art, it ultimately comes down to your personal taste and aesthetics. There are no ultimate ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ forms of aesthetics. There are simply preferences.

So the question is this:

What aesthetics do you prefer in art?

For myself, I have taken a HUGE liking to the aesthetics of Steve Jobs, zen minimalism, simplicity, Bauhaus, Elon Musk/Tesla. The notion I have is this:

Simpler and stronger.

Similar aesthetics to the ancient Greeks, and the poetry of Homer (I am still so blown away by how simple language Homer uses in the Iliad, and yet how much force, energy, and power his words have!)

Dark Skies over Tokyo. RICOH GR II x FLASH

This is why I love monochrome. The simplest aesthetic to maximize visual impact.

Dark Skies over Tokyo // RICOH GR II x FLASH
Dark Skies over Tokyo // RICOH GR II x FLASH

I’ve always loved dark, gritty, strong. This is why at HAPTIC, I like the notion of ‘PHANTOM BLACK‘.

Mexico City, 2019 #abstract
Mexico City, 2019 #abstract
Mexico City, 2019 #abstract
Mexico City, 2019 #abstract

3. Allow yourself to change, and evolve!

With aesthetics and taste, don’t let anyone super-impose their tastes on you. For example, don’t let pretentious wine snobs “educate” how you “should” drink wine, or what pairing are ‘legitimate’ (for example, it is totally fine to drink white wine with steak — who made up these stupid rules?)

Same in photography. Just ask yourself:

Do I prefer monochrome or color?

Also, realize that often over time, your tastes change and evolve. And that’s totally fine too!

For example, I love monochrome. It was my first love, and I will always love it. But I was curious about color, so I experimented with my street portraits. Shot on RICOH GR II and flash:

But it seems I keep coming back to monochrome:

4. Never force nothing

I feel that your growth as a street photographer must be organic. You cannot force it. I do believe growth does happen from a ‘dialectic’ of:

Fighting two ideas, and growth happens from this strife.

For example, I learn the lessons from the masters, then challenge it, and discover my own deeper personal truth.

The most important thing:

Never become discouraged, and never let anyone bully you into believing a contrary idea.

5. The ideal equipment for street photography

Espresso Ricoh GR III coffee
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I have theorized and practiced much when it comes to equipment for street photography.

These are my beliefs:

  • The best camera for street photography is RICOH GR III.
  • The best focal length for street photography is either 35mm, 28mm, or possibly even 21mm.

This is what I discovered about focal length and lenses for street photography:

  • If you use a viewfinder (putting the camera to your eye), the ideal focal length is 35mm.
  • If you shoot with the LCD screen and stretch out your arm when shooting, the ideal focal length is 28mm.

For street portraits, it seems that 28mm is the widest limit. At 24mm and 21mm, the lens is simply too wide.

If you can only have one lens in your arsenal (the zen of one camera, one lens), I would recommend:

  • Ricoh GR III (integrated 28mm lens)
  • If you have a camera where you will attach an external lens, I recommend 35mm (full-frame equivalent).

For example, some lens recommendations based on camera brands:

6. What makes a master street photographer?

Master, maestro, idol?

The etymology of the word ‘master’ goes back to ‘magnus‘ (great). So if your goal is to become a master street photographer, your goal is to become a GREAT street photographer.

jazz hands
Hollywood, 2011

Then comes the question:

What makes a great photographer?

Is a photographer great when they have the ability to make great photos? Is ‘greatness’ about their ability or skill of making great photographs? Is being great more about their attitude and courage, and penchant for risk-taking? Is greatness fame? What is greatness?

7. Become MEGA

ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP
ERIC KIM x HENRI STRAP

The closest thing I got so far is this:

To become ‘great’ literally means to become BIG.

Or the word ‘mahas‘ in Sanskrit, we mean:

  1. Greatness, might, power, glory
  2. Joy, gladness, pleasure

So if you become a great street photographer, it means:

  1. You have the ability to make great photos
  2. You’ve shot great photos in the past (strong portfolio)
  3. You have strong confidence when you’re shooting; lots of courage, bravery, and minimal hesitation. Fearlessness is key.
  4. You’ve achieved some sort of ‘glory’ (fame, influence, riches)
  5. You derive great joy from shooting street photography. It brings you gladness and great pleasure.

8. Can you be a great street photographer and not be famous?

Of course. Let us note Saul Leiter (didn’t get famous until he was very old), and Vivian Maier (never famous in her lifetime, but still great).

  • To become a great street photographer is more about your personal industry, effort, and training.
  • To become a famous street photographer is more about marketing, branding, and positioning.

I’m lucky that I am a great marketer of myself and my work (my background in sociology, marketing, social media, Google SEO, etc).

Also, I’ve become a big street photographer by deep experimentation and through much practice. STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 101 has been my magnum opus so far. I don’t know anyone who has pursued street photography with as much zeal as I have over the years in such a short period of time (2009-2019).

Then comes the question:

Do you want to become both GREAT in street photography AND famous?

For entrepreneurial matters, read up on Photography Entrepreneurship 101 >

9. Share your abundance with others!

Essentially during your quest to becoming a great street photographer — share your lessons, tips, techniques and knowledge with others along the way! In praise of OPEN SOURCE information and knowledge.

SHOOT ON!

ERIC


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