Course – Eric Kim’s Street Photography – Week Two

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

Week 2: “The History of Street Photography”

Street photography is a discipline that has its roots since the invention of the 35mm rangefinder camera by Leica, which has helped many photographers capture the action and stories on the streets. How did the first street photographers capture moments in the streets, and what makes their photos so memorable?

Lecture:

  • The History of Street Photography

Required Readings:

  • Looking at Photographs: Andre Kertesz (p 92)
  • Looking at Photographs: Brassai (p 110)
  • Looking at Photographs: Henri Cartier-Bresson (p 112)
  • Looking at Photographs: Helen Levitt (p 138)
  • Looking at Photographs: Robert Capa (p 146)
  • Looking at Photographs: W Eugene Smith (p 150)

Assignment:

  • Have a conversation with a stranger and ask them for permission to take their photo.

Walk up to a stranger and ask to take their photo. Hum this sounds like a nightmare of mine. Have a conversation with a stranger. Then take a photo. I’m not sure how I’m going to make this work. I will have to reach deep to take a look at how I want this to happen and who to approach. Should I approach a man or a woman. Should I approach a couple or just one person. It leads to lots of questions.

I will have to consider the image and what I am trying to capture. Or better yet who I am trying to capture. What and why am I taking a picture of this person. It all goes back to my interest in the human condition. I want to capture life in the film. I am going to have to get comfortable taking pictures of people. Who. I would like to maybe take a portrait of someone at a store. Maybe an employee. Someone would not be able to say no at the risk of sounding rude. That might be it. But of course then they could just say it’s store policy to not allow photos…

So that maybe makes me have to take some photos of people outside. Maybe a homeless person. Not sure. They have nothing to lose and I would feel like I need to pay them. I don’t want to have to pay to take a picture. I still want to incorporate the surroundings and environment into the photo. Oh maybe someone outside the fox theater before or after a show. Someone going to the show. All dressed up. That might be something if there is a show. There might not be a show.

Then I would have to improvise. I would have to go down the street. Walking down the street and trying to ask strangers will be tough they can pass by. I need to approach someone waiting or stopped on the street for some reason. Most people stop on the street at the street corners. They wait at corners or perhaps outside a store. I just want to make sure they are cool with it. And what can I talk to them about.

Hey I am learning about photography and would like to make a portrait of you. I have a class I’m taking and my assignment is to make a portrait of someone on the street. “Would you be alright with me making a picture of you?” But first I would need to have some small talk right.

“Hey, how’s it going.” usually just has people say fine and walk on. Maybe complement something they are wearing. Like a suit or some hat or something. That would work. Complement them on something. Then I could ask to make the photo.

This is super scary and I hope I can do it. I of course will return with some photos from this and perhaps I find it’s a great experience. Making a photo of a complete stranger. It sounds impossible. What will we talk about. This is even harder for an introvert. Love photography because it allows me to push my limits.

Update:

I could not do it, but I’m moving forward anyway.

I wasn’t able to spark a conversation with a stranger. It was just too hard. I did take several photos of strangers on the street while they knew that I was taking them.

I tried. Well no I did not. I did not try. I was too afraid. I was too self conscious. I didn’t want to bother anyone. I failed. I failed but I’m still going to move on. I’m going to continue forward.

This is like the college course that you start freshman year. The professor is trying to weed out the people that can’t take it. They throw the hardest concepts at you right from the beginning. If you can push through them, then you will succeed.

Well I am not going to give up or let this failure hold me back. I’m going to move forward. It would be a shame if I let this hold me back. Hold me back from something that I’m passionate about. I would never let someone else dictate whether I was able to achieve something.

I would never let someone else justify or determine my outcome. I want to make something of this. I want to continue to learn. I want to explore this passion further. One failure is not going to hold me back. I’m going to take this failure as a lesson learned.

I was not able to approach a stranger and have a conversation with them. I might some day from now. I might be able to do this. But now I as an extreme introvert was not able to do it. I was not able to approach them.

I will move forward on the next lesson and not let this one hold me back any further. I already let this slip into week two when it was a one week lesson.

I extended it because I continued to tell myself that I would do it. I would do it. I would approach that person and make that portrait. I did not. But it’s ok. It is ok. It will be fine. You have to look at this as a learning experience. You can’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t let it get you down.

You know lots of times we start something and when we get to a hurdle or something difficult we stop. We just say I can’t do it. I might as well stop. This is not the way I approach life. I go around the hurdle. Side step it if I can. If I can’t do that one thing, it’s not going to keep me from progressing.

That’s ok. Instead of jumping the hurdle I will side step and walk around it. I try to explore what the hurdle is in the first place. Why was it blocking me and is it possible to go around it? How will stopping at this hurdle hinder my final goal?

Is it necessary that I jump? Is there no way around it? If I jump and fail. I will continue to jump again and again. This is one of those hurdles that I will walk around. I know that it comes across as cheating. It’s not. It’s progressing forward with something that I find a passion in. It’s not letting the small things hold me back.

I will reach that point again. I will train my legs in the meantime so that I can jump that hurdle when it presents itself down the road. I will jump it then and be better prepared because I persevered. So my advice to you would be to just push on. If you found this first lesson to difficult, push on.

Do the best you can at this moment and move to the next lesson. It will serve you better to continue, than to give up.

I would suggest that you do that. And don’t let the failure of one event hold you back. Don’t let your fears of that one event hold you back. Don’t let it keep you from progressing down your educational journey. Don’t let it make you feel like you don’t have what it takes to be successful. Explore those things that you find passion in. Let your experiences work for you and guide you to make your own path.

Use the resources around you. You have to explore your own path to success and understand that you are doing this for yourself. I’m not suggesting to sidestep all the difficult hurdles.

I’m suggesting that if you find one is too high to jump. Instead of quitting and walking off the field, stay in the race and keep moving. Moving forward is what will allow you to become the person that you want to be.

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