ERIC KIM

On Failure and Street Photography | Eric Kim

Street photography is all about failure. The failure to have the courage to take that one shot. The failure to capture “the decisive moment.” The failure to get a clean background. The failure to have your subject make eye contact. The failure to move your feet to get a better frame. The failure to get recognition for your work. The failure to have your photo get “explored” on Flickr. Failures upon failures upon failures. I think one of the things that initially drew me to street photography is just how damn hard it is. It was unlike any other form of photography out there. It was so unpredictable. Whereas when I shot landscape, macro, or architecture– I could take however long I wanted, and I had so much in my control. But with street photography, I had to learn to relinquish control to simply “go with the flow.” I couldn’t control the light, control how people looked, the background– all I could control is how well I could move my feet, and click the shutter at what I thought would be the “right” moment…..

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103 Things I’ve Learned About Street Photography | Eric Kim

Over the years, I have learned a lot of lessons about street photography. Below is a compilation of some quotes, thoughts, and philosophies which have influenced me and my street photography. None of my ideas are original – some are based on personal experiences and others are based on ideas I heard from books, lectures, and on the internet. And of course, this is not a definitive list of what you “have to do” in street photography – rather it is some of my personal thoughts ….

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14 Lessons Elliott Erwitt Has Taught Me About Street Photography |
Eric Kim

USA. New York. 2000. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

If you are not familiar with the work of Elliott Erwitt, you have definitely seen many of Elliott Erwitt’s iconic work all around the globe. As one of the original Magnum members and former president, he has one of the longest spanning photography careers- spanning over 50 years. What I most appreciate about Elliott Erwitt is his wry sense of humor when looking at the world– as well as his straightforward and nonsensical philosophies about photography. When sharing his thoughts and advice, I think he is one of the most practical and helpful- especially based on his decades of experience. I share some things I personally have learned from him in the article below…..

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10 Lessons Andre Kertesz Has Taught Me About Street Photography |
Eric Kim

Andre Kertesz is one of the greatest photographers who ever lived. He photographed extensively for over 70 years, which also makes him one of the most prolific photographers. Not only did he help pioneer the genre of street photography, he also had a strong impact on an entire generation of photographers – even including the great Henri Cartier-Bresson. When asked about Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson showed his reverence by saying: “We all owe something to Kertesz.” and even “Whatever we have done, Kertesz did first.”  Another famous photographer, Brassai, beautifully captured what made Kertesz so great as a photographer:

“André Kertész has two qualities that are essential for a great photographer: an insatiable curiosity about the world, about people, and about life, and a precise sense of form.” – Brassai

Every street photographer with a desire to learn more about the masters needs to know about Kertesz. I have personally gained a great deal of inspiration from him and will share some insights I have gained from him……

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5 Lessons for Living in Street Photography (and Life) | Eric Kim


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Recently I wrote an article by Paul Graham titled “The Top of My Todo List” in which he mentioned the article above in how to live a fulfilling life.

He mentioned how we are always so busy and caught up in our to-do lists. He used the article above and used the opposite maxims to create his own list (to prevent regrets in life):

  1. Don’t ignore your dreams
  2. Don’t work too much
  3. Say what you think
  4. Cultivate friendships
  5. Be happy

This made a lot of sense to me– as they gave me direct action steps to prevent regret in my life. And what better mentors to give life advice than the elderly who have already lived their lives–and are ready to pass away?
….

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The Tao of Street Photography | Eric Kim

A fun and uplifting book I recently read was “The Tao of Pooh.” To sum up the book, the author explains the philosophy of Taosim through (believe it not) Winnie the Pooh. Yeah, I know it sounds ridiculous, but the author does a superb job sewing the two concepts together– in a language relatable and easy-to-understand for the viewer. Having grown up on Winnie the Pooh, I can certainly say that it brought the concepts of Taosim to life for me. Similarly to Zen Buddhism, Taoism is a philosophy which was first introduced by Lao Tse in a book called: “Tao Tse Ching.” The philosophy of Taoism advocates staying calm and happy in all circumstances, no matter how difficult or arduous the outside world can be.

So what is the difference between Buddhism and Taosim?

  • Buddhism sees the outside world in a much more negative light– describing “the bitter wind of everyday existence.”
  • Taoism sees the world as “…not full of traps, but valuable lessons.” Therefore through Taoism we should appreciate, learn from, and work with whatever happens in everyday life.

A great analogy explained is the analogy of tasting vinegar. Many different people often taste vinegar, and complain of how sour it is and groan. However the Taoist would taste the vinegar and regardless of the taste, still smile. The takeaway idea is that we should turn negatives into positives, regardless of the situation. There are lots of insights I’ve gained through Taosim and especially “The Tao of Pooh” that I can relate back to street photography. Also note I am not an expert on Taosim, so please correct any mistakes I make in the comments below……

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Zen in the Art of Street Photography | Eric Kim

Photograph by Rinzi Ruiz (All photographs in this article provided by Rinzi Ruiz)

My good friend Nicholas Susatyo recently recommended a book to me: “Zen in the Art of Archery.” In-fact, it was the book that Henri Cartier-Bresson said had the deepest influence in his photography. I have been meaning to read it for a while, so on my flight to Philly I decided to give it a go.The book is written by Eugen Herrigel, a German philosophy teacher who went to Japan for several years and learned the art of archery (while teaching philosophy at a Japanese university). He heard about the art of archery, and was fascinated with the zen philosophy which was embedded in the art.

As we all know, archery is no longer practiced in the “real world” in battles and such. When Herrigel wrote “Zen in the Art of Archery” in the 1940′s, it was a very closed art– only reserved to local Japanese who were serious enough about it. To teach a foreigner the art of zen and archery was considered heretical. However with some good luck (a good introduction by a Japanese friend) and some persistence, Herrigel was able to go under the wing of one of the greatest archers in Japan. And with his experiences learning under him for 6 years, he wrote his brief book in “Zen in the Art of Archery.” The book was an enjoyable read to me, because he explained the zen philosophies (which are often cryptic) in a way in which westerners could understand. Being Korean-American myself, it was the perfect balance of Eastern Philosophy with Western analysis. After finishing the book, not only did I learn many insights which I plan on applying to my practical everyday life, but also to my street photography. Some of these philosophies may seem a bit cryptic, but I will share what I personally got out of reading the book. And of course, I am not an expert of zen–and one of the biggest difficulties is that there are so many branches of zen that all the practitioners have subtly different philosophies. Please feel free to share your thoughts and also corrections in the comments below……

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Interview with Matt Stuart on Street Photography, Ethics, and the Future
of Photography | Eric Kim

When I started street photography, one of the photographers whose work always amazed me was that of Matt Stuart. He is part of the international street photography In-Public, and has caught some of the most incredible images I have ever seen. I was always curious about how he was able to capture his moments. In the video interview with Miniclick, he talks about his thoughts on street photography, commissions, ethics, his interest, and the future of photography. For your convenience I have also written together a transcript of the interview below, so read more to get all the goodies. Photographs courtesy of Matt Stuart…..

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The Nostalgic Black & White Photos of Japan: Interview with Street Photographer Junku Nishimura | Eric Kim


 
Eric’s Note: Junku Nishimura is one of the most talented street photographers that I know in Japan. Not only is he incredibly passionate about his photography (he shoots exclusively film and develops and prints all of his work) but he is also one of the most down-to-earth. I taught a film street photography workshop in Kyoto with him alongside Bellamy Hunt and Sean Lotman- which was an incredible experience. On the last night of the workshop, we were sitting in a bar in Kyoto and I conducted an interview with him. Here is a transcription (along with some edits) of the interview.

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Why Do You Shoot Street Photography? | Eric Kim

When I was in Korea earlier this year, my friend and fellow street photographer David Kim shared a TED talk with me titled: “How great leaders inspire action.” David holds a leadership position at his job, and he told me that this talk changed the way how he lead others and how he leads his own life. Needless to say, I was fascinated by the talk and after watching it – it changed my life.

In the talk Simon Sinek makes the case that successful leaders/organizations/companies asked the question “why” before asking the “what” or the “how”. For example, he used Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers as examples who focused on the “why” questions. For Apple, they follow the “why” question when it comes to making computers. Why does Apple do what they do? They want to inspire people through elegant, simple, yet powerful devices. For Martin Luther King, why did he want to see equality and freedom for all races in the states? Because he had a dream.

For the Wright Brothers, why did they work so hard to build the first flying airplane? Not to make money, but to create a technological breakthrough that would help all of mankind…..

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