Course – Eric Kim’s Street Photography – Week Four

This course can be found on Eric Kim’s photography site. Link

Week 4: “How to Shoot in the Streets”

One of the largest barriers that aspiring street photographers has is the difficulty in overcoming the fear of taking photos of strangers in public without their permission. How can we capture candid moments of those in our society and interact with them if they approach us? How can we use psychological and sociological concepts to help us overcome this obstacle?

Lecture:

  • Week 4: “How to Shoot in the Streets” [YouTube]

Required Readings:

  • Ways of Working (Article)
  • Bruce Gilden (Video)
  • Eric Kim (Video)
  • Joe Wigfall (Video)

Assignment:

  • See somebody you want to take a photo of, approach them and take their photograph without permission. After taking their photograph, wave at them, smile, and say thank you.

My notes:

“What do these people think of you taking their photos?”
 
My sister asked recently. I sent a couple of photos I took on the street. My response was, “They love it.”
 
In reality I’m not sure if this is true. Although I’ve only had a good response from people thus far.
 
Pointing a camera at someone yeilds two things. One they turn away or two they smile. I usually get a smile or a nod. Something that’s not too intimidating. I have yet to have anyone get angry.
 
I was watching a video of Eric Kim (street photographer) last night. It was a video he had taken of himself in L.A. on the streets. He was in the fashion district taking photos of people with a flash. He would walk up to them then crouch down low and take a photo.
 
It was interesting to see the reactions. Most of the people had an alarming look. A look of what are you doing. Why are you taking my picture. How dare you. One guy demands he delete a photo.
 
“You have to ask first. You have to get permission.” The man keeps saying. Eric deletes the photo for him and moves on.
 
You have to ask before taking someones photo in the public domain. Legally not true.
 
Should a person expect a reasonable level of privacy. This is the boundary. Should they expect a reasonable level of privacy. Such as a public restroom. I would not take a photo in a bathroom. Because I would not want to take those types of photos of people for one. And second it would be an invasion of privacy.
 
They are expecting to have a level of privacy. But on a public street there is no expectation of privacy. I could see inside shops. The store owner could have you leave etc… but they can’t make you do anything on a public street. If you desired to you could wait outside a store and take a photo of each person walking out. It would all be fair game.
 
What do you do when someone demands you delete their photo. Eric deleted the photo. In the past I deleted a photo. I was at a festival and a vendor had a painting hanging from the tent. I took a picture of the tent and the painting. He got upset saying that I could not take a picture of his wife’s art. At the time I was unaware of the rules so I deleted it. I was not required to but I did since he had an issue with it.
 
This is fine for digital but I’ve seen days when Eric’s out shooting film. Would he have pulled the entire roll out and exposed it? Would he have gone that far to pacify this man? With digital yes it’s easy. With film Eric wouldn’t have batted an eye. He would have continued walking. Why would he risk losing many potential photos to appease one person. One person that doesn’t understand the laws.
 
I know some people might find this all to be intrusive. An invasion on our rights. I don’t see it at all like this. I see it as a form of free speech. Freedom to express yourself in the public spaces of our country.
 
If you don’t want photos taken, then don’t hangout on the streets. If you don’t want to be exposed to the general population then don’t go outside your home. It’s all rather simple.
 
How would someone react if you took their photo with a cell phone as opposed to an actual camera? What would the reaction difference be? Would there be a difference? Do you look like a strange creep with a cellphone and a professional with a leica?
 
Get over it. You have to ask yourself, “Do you care what others think?” You’re creating. You’re an artist. Exploring our culture and our society. Documenting and telling the worlds stories.
 
Do you care what other people think of you and better yet your camera?
 
Get over it. You use what you use. Do your photos look amazing. If not it’s not the camera it’s your distance. How close are you. Good photos of people on the street require you to get close. Get closer. When it feels uncomfortable get a little closer. It will feel strange.
 
We’re taught to give personal space. Keep distance from people. Stay back and give people space. Don’t crowd people. Leave them alone.
 
If you take a picture of a stranger that makes you weird.
 
You will get weird looks from people. “Who’s that weird person who took my photo?” What was that etc…. You have to let go. Remember why you are there in the first place.
 
What’s your personal mission? What are you trying to achieve with your art? With my art, I’m trying to capture the lives of people in their surroundings in the city. Interaction with buildings. Etc… I am still working out the story I want to tell.
 
This is more of a reason to explore even more. Look around and find that thing that you are interested in capturing. Find a story to tell. What story are you going to tell with your photos?
 
Do you photography all overweight people to tell a story of obesity in America? What’s the story you will tell.
 
Do you photography only the homeless? Homeless juxtaposed against the wealthy. I look for all these thing. I look for things that can tell the story of a deeper societal problem. What story are you trying to tell?
 
Remember, don’t let the opinions of others stop you from telling your story. The world needs to hear your story told in your way.
– Marc

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