Life is too short to do shit you don't like doing. I know a lot of people who work in jobs they absolutely hate, stay in relationships they don't enjoy, and force themselves to do hobbies that they aren't that interested in.
We all have relatively short lives while we are here on earth. Not only that, but we have no idea when we are going to die. Sure if we are relatively healthy we can expect to live to around 80. But who knows if we get a rare form of cancer and die early? Or if we get into a car accident and die? Or perhaps die in some sort of other freak accident?
I think one of the most important things we should prioritize is to have fun in life. To be curious. To be like a child again and to explore.
I wanted to write this article as a gentle reminder both to myself and to you that we should have fun when shooting street photography. In my previous post I wrote about failure and street photography, but I wanted to make this article a little more upbeat and show the upside of having fun when shooting in the streets.
1. Have fun when shooting on the streets
I think when we are shooting on the streets, we should never forget to have fun. Sure we all want to get strong and memorable images, but if we aren't enjoying ourselves while doing it– why bother? Why force yourself to shoot when you don't enjoy it?
Have fun when shooting in the streets. Have fun talking to strangers. Have fun shooting with a friend. Have fun exploring and going down roads you normally wouldn't. Have fun and also enjoy a nice coffee while you out and about.
Of course there are days that I don't feel like shooting and I go out and shoot anyways. However, almost all of the time I go out I end up having fun.
If you don't have fun when you shoot on the streets, perhaps street photography isn't the right form of photography for you.
2. Have fun when looking at photography
I think one of the best ways to build your style and influences is based on what photos you enjoy looking at. If you enjoy looking at classic street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, perhaps that shows your interest in composition and geometry. If you enjoy looking at the work of Bruce Gilden, perhaps it shows your interest in people.
Vehemently avoid photography you don't like. Just because other people in a gallery or a museum enjoy a photographer doesn't mean you need to enjoy it as well. I think it is important to try to think why other people enjoy another photographer, but at the end of the day– if you don't have fun looking at a certain photographer I would say it is fine to ignore them.
By seeing whose work we have fun looking at, this gives us great insight in terms of which direction to take our photography.
3. Have fun meeting other street photographers
For me, I have the most fun not by shooting, looking at photographs, but meeting other street photographers. I derive great joy from being social with other photographers, whose work or presence I enjoy and admire. I wouldn't enjoy street photography if I had nobody to share my work with or nobody to shoot with.
Of course this is just my personality–as I am quite extroverted and I need to be around other people. Even though you might find yourself more introverted, we are all social creatures at the end of the day.
If you don't know any other street photographers in your area, try to reach out via Facebook or Flickr to someone whose work you admire. Meet them, share your work, ask for a critique, enjoy a nice coffee and meal together, and perhaps even shoot together. If you don't have fun when you are with another photographer, it will show that either you aren't compatible with with one another
and perhaps you should find someone who you do have fun with.
4. Have fun while traveling
When I first started traveling, I treated it like a job. I had a list of places I wanted to see and visit, and would rush frantically getting from one landmark to another. However this was not fun at all. Sure I had some nice snapshots, but I didn't enjoy the experience of traveling.
Rather I just do what I personally find fun (and avoid everything else). For example, I know what I enjoy while traveling: meeting other local photographers, seeing photography galleries or exhibitions, shooting on the street, and trying out new foods. I avoid touristy hotspots like the plague– because I don't enjoy them.
So when it comes to traveling, remember it isn't a contest. There are no winners in seeing the most stuff or doing the most things. Go at a fun and relaxed pace, and only do what you personally enjoy.
Let fun lead your life. I think it is quite sad that we have so much fun, excitement, and curiosity as children– and we tend to get boring and dull when we are older.
Of course we can't all just quit our jobs we hate and suddenly put the “real world” behind us. However in your life and street I photography don't forget to have breaks and have fun. Life doesn't need to be so serious.
Disregard the expectations others set for you– and pursue what makes you happy. Pursue photography projects that you have fun with. Meet other photographers who you find fun to be with. Have fun when looking at images and shooting on the streets.
What do you have to lose? Go out and have fun!
Eric Kim Street Photography