Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pro Photographer: Eric Kim - The Sociologist with a Camera

Street photography has grown in leaps and bounds within these past few years with digital technology breathing new life into to the genre by creating high resolution cameras packed in smaller bodies. Today, street photographers roam the streets with smaller yet very capable cameras, shooting to their hearts content, the candid life out there.

Close to half a century after Henri Cartier-Bresson brought street photography to the public, there have been a number of new photographers taking his ideology to the next level.

Eric Kim is one of the new wave of street photographers who adds his charm and passion to his  art. With innate verbal skills to match his photographic eye, he can talk you into getting into the wackiest of positions to take a shot. 

His camera setup is one that features a camera equipped with a pancake lens and a Go Pro mounted at the top to document his street photo adventures (and misadventures) ala-Doom, First-person-shooter style. 

Two personas arise in Eric when you meet him, which can be loosely described as Eric the photographer and Eric the person. 

As a person, his lighthearted attitude towards life shines with an innate talent towards striking up a conversation with that will make you chuckle. He talks straight through  your funny bone which is how he bridges whatever cultural divide you may have with one another.  

As a photographer, you can see Eric’s tenacity and commitment to his craft, willing to go up close and personal (we’re talking macro levels here) with his subject, to get that shot.  His ability to blend his photographer persona with his lighthearted charm allows him to get up close and personal with his subjects without the feeling them feeling invaded.  

In his visit here in the Philippines a few months back, I was able to have a short conversation/interview with the international street photographer, and here are some of his top lessons.

Don’t worry too much on the technicalities

In the digital age, we are presently bombarded with information from every corner of the globe, giving us insight on anything imaginable. For Eric, he shoots for the sake of taking photos first and the technicalities of everything as a second priority “Don’t worry too much about if it is a good photo or not”, he mentioned. To be a good photographer, you have to shoot from the heart. 

Develop your own personal style

“There is no one right way to doing things (in photography)”. This is the short summary of Eric’s idea on developing your own style. To him, developing one’s own style is one of the key facets to making it in the world of photography. 

Work the Scene
Street Photography is about taking pictures at the precise moment, but it doesn't mean that all you can do is pray for that moment to arrive. Eric shoots a scene by taking a number of shots before moving to the next and advices those who take’s just one picture to take their time in one scene before moving to the next.  Taking one shot and leaving the scene is like buying a lottery ticket, you might get that winning shot, but more shots give you more opportunities.

When in doubt, click
According to Eric, many photographers worry too much about the definition of photography, causing endless debates and opinions on what a "photo" should and should not be. To Eric, Photography is a religion, with each photographer following a different system of beliefs, from camera maker, to lens types, to techniques, but each ultimately leading  to what photography is. Instead of worrying about what photography (or what a good photo) is, press that shutter button and find out for yourself. In Eric's own words, "There is no ONE right way." 

Connect with your subject
Unlike many street photographers, Eric doesn't advice to shoot from the hip.  "Shooting from the hip is a little sneaky. When you talk to your subject, you get more emotion and the best photos are emotional". Looks like we all have to up our charm skills for this one then.   


What can you say about the Philippines?
"The Philippines reminds me of Korean food because of its  variety of colors and flavors. the country is filled with very friendly people and what differentiates them from the rest is they are a community that helps each other out."

If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?

"I studied sociology back in college, which is about studying people. I incorporate this into my craft I see myself as a sociologist with a camera."

You were featured in DigitalRev on Youtube, Can you tell us about the experience?
"I was surprised when I got the invite. When I got it, I thought to myself, “Yes! I made it!”
Eric Kim and Kai Man Wong in an episode of DigitalRev
because they wanted me in their show."

"The guys in DigitalRev are all genuine. Lok is Lok, Alamby is always such a sweetheart and Kai is just a great person. On stage he is energetic and funny and off stage he is a humble person. We still keep in contact whenever I visit Hong Kong."

Favorite Philippine food
"Krispy Pata, Lechon, Pork Sisig!"

Camera Settings
"I do shoot in Raw in P mode, center point. The definition of a pro photographer is not whether he shoots in full manual of not.”

"I like to shoot manual with the 27mm. I love Fuji’s pancake lenses."

Worst Experience
"There was one time when I got in trouble shooting in a racetrack in Japan, I was brought in to this room and was interrogated by Japanese security thinking  that I may be a North Korean spy (laughs)."

More on Eric Kim at