Street Photography Project: ONLY IN AMERICA by ERIC KIM

My ongoing photography project on AMERICA — my home, my love, my country:

Why America?

Kid with Barbie. Chicago.

First of all, I am an American. I love this country. I was born here, raised here, went to all public schools throughout my life, did Boy Scouts (became an Eagle Scout), and in terms of morals/ethics/philosophy I prefer America the best (compared to all of the other countries I traveled to and have been).

red cowboy Los Angeles
Los Angeles, 2013

How ONLY IN AMERICA came to be

Korean War veteran. NYC, 2017

‘ONLY IN AMERICA’ as a title came to me via JAY Z. It was catchy, and I liked the sound of it.

But wasn’t there a trillion other photographers who have already done photography projects on America? Obviously. But just because other people have drank coffee in their lives before doesn’t mean I won’t drink coffee myself. And just because other people went to college in the past doesn’t mean I won’t go to college.

Share your view!

downtown la woman with popsicle downtown la fashion district
Downtown LA, 2011

I have the desire to share MY VIEW, MY PERSPECTIVE. I believe that my perspective is unique, valuable, and strong. This is my impetus.

And to encourage you:

Just because someone else has done it before, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try or inquire for yourself.

For example in philosophy, all these philosophers are essentially tackling and attacking the same questions. I think philosophers are hungry to discover a deeper truth, and also prefer their own perspective on things.

We photographers are also warriors of truth, except we use a camera instead of a pen!

injured homeless man NYC 2018 New York
Injured? NYC, 2018

How to start a project?

laughing lady
Laughing Lady. NYC, 2015

This is something I have always been curious:

How do you start a photography project? Especially in the context of street photography?

I have inquired by studying MANY MASTERS of street photography, by studying hundreds of photography books, and essentially seeing how others have done it before myself. And this is what I discovered:

There are a trillion ways to approach a photography project. It just comes down to have the courage to pursue it your own way, and to not give a damn whether others consider your approach ‘legitimate’ or not.

Photograph people you admire.

Eric Rivera, street portrait with cigar. 1 meters, with flash, Leica M6, Kodak Portra 400, 35mm lens
Eric Rivera, street portrait with cigar. 1 meters, with flash, Leica M6, Kodak Portra 400, 35mm lens

I think this is what I discovered:

The best way to approach a street photography project is to photograph people you like and admire!

Downtown LA, 2016

Discover people you find beautiful, interesting, and wonderful to you! And don’t just photograph people; talk to them! Interact with them. Ask them about their life story and personal ambitions and dreams.

Is a photography project ever over?

Street portrait with flash (Denver, 2019)
Street portrait with flash (Denver, 2019)

I don’t think so. You stop the project once you die or get bored of it. My thought:

If you get bored of a project, it is probably because you don’t genuinely care for it.

This means:

When you work on a photographic project ask yourself: “Is this for myself, or for others?”

If you work on a project which is truly for yourself, you will never run out of motivation. Why? Because you do it to please yourself! We must be more honest — we must pursue more art projects which WE ARE SELF-INTERESTED IN!

To be consistent, or not to be consistent?

New Orleans, 2015

I’m starting to realize more and more as I continue to pursue photography:

All is all.

Which means:

Don’t put creative shackles on yourself by making things too specific. Keep it open, broad, and flexible.

Embedding your soul and philosophy into your photos

selfie downtown la couple fur fun

America raised me, and I love America. All my mentors, teachers, and guides were American. I want to make photos an ode to my love of this country, and to embed my soul into my photos.

I am America!

ERIC

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