Face Fear Head On – Eric Kim
Fear In Street Photography – How Eric Kim Touched My Heart
Eric Kim is by no means the only street photographer who writes about fear. But he’s the only one who knows how to reach the hearts of his readers. I should know, because he certainly has taught me how to turn fear into something positive.
Instead of being mortified by acrophobia, I view it as a source of photographic opportunities.
How Eric Kim Touched My Heart
Eric Kim is a great communicator. He knows how to get his message across. That is the first thing I realised when I stumbled upon his blog post about conquering the fear to shoot street photography. He simply touched my heart.
I was simply hooked by his style of writing. It was as if he was writing just for me. This guy understood how I felt about street photography.
I loved the craft but was overwhelmed by this fear to just take my camera out and start shooting what tickled my fancy.
Eric managed to pin-point my problem. And he suggested a remedy. A remedy that worked and continues to yield satisfying results.
Among other things I learned from this international street photography instructor is the need for introspection.
To really understand what it is that you want to achieve as a street photographer, you need to look inward.
What moves you?
What makes you tick as an individual?
What scares you?
What excites you?
What are your aspirations?
What are the stumbling blocks that prevent you from achieving your goals?
When you’re sleeping at night, what do you dream about? What do you see in your nightmares?
The first thing I learned about street photography from Eric Kim is that it says more about the photographer than about his or her subjects. Your images show something about you more than they tell us about your subject.
So even though you may not be aware of this fact, you’re actually photographing yourself. And that is the core of street photography. With your images you’re saying to the world: “This is who I am.”
Following Eric’s advice on shooting how I feel, I decided to depict my feelings about acrophobia.
I am acrophobic.
If you’re not familiar with the term it means fear of heights. I am unreasonably terrified by heights. That is why I won’t be a rigger or a builder. Bungee Jumping anyone? No thanks! That’s not my cup of coffee.
Let me tell you how acrophobia affects my life.
The other day I had to cross this huge road in Kempton Park. Like everyone else I had to make use of a pedestrian bridge. As I approached the bridge I noticed that many people were walking across without any sign of fear on their faces. From children to old people, they would walk effortlessly or even run from this side of the road to the other side.
Initially I was afraid to use the pedestrian bridge. I looked at the road and tried to figure out how I could cross the busy Zuurfontein Road. It was during peak hour traffic and there was no way I could risk my life and walk across the six-lane highway.
I had to use the pedestrian bridge like everyone else. Or walk for a kilometre to find a safer crossing point. So I psyched myself up. I reasoned: ‘If children can simply run across and the elderly walk without thinking twice, it must be safe. It is safe. Look, there is no way you could fall off.’
I decided to cross the bridge.
Slowly but surely I walked.
Halfway across the road I paused. I looked back. I looked ahead to assess the distance left before I could take a deep breath and shout ‘I made it!’
This was the centre of the road. The distance either way was the same.
Do I go ahead and walk across or do I walk back?
I sat down.
My heart was pumping at a faster rate than normal. People walked past. This way and that way.
I stood up and walked back, almost running.
That is acrophobia. The fear of heights.
Turning Acrophobia Into Photo Opportunities
Following Eric Kim’s advice to turn fear into something positive, I developed a keen eye for photographic opportunities. Everytime I notice somebody doing what I am unable to do because of my fear of heights, I take a picture.
The photos on this blog post were inspired by my fear of heights. Let me take you through the images:
Load shedding was a term used by the Electricity Supply Commission or Eskom in South Africa to explain a series of power cuts that almost plummeted the country into a recession. It was a difficult period in the country when electricity supply would be interrupted for many hours during the day.
To lessen the burden endured by consumers, Eskom decided to alternate these power cuts. For two hours one section of the city of Johannesburg, for example, would be without power. When power comes back to this section, it would be cut for a longer period in another part of the city.
This was hugely inconvenient. Each time the lights went off, people would scream: “Load Shedding!”
It was during the load-shedding period when I saw these men working on a powerline. They were working so high up that, just by looking at them made me feel uneasy.
I stopped my car and started taking pictures. I just couldn’t imagine myself doing what these guys were doing.
This picture was later entered into a photo competition and won the first price.
Playing comes naturally to all children. When you see children playing, you’re reminded of your own childhood.
The children in this photo certainly reminded me of my childhood. I vividly remember avoiding heights even then.
We had no fancy playgrounds where I grew up. I remember playing all sorts of games. But none of them involved the height.
So when I saw these kids enjoying themselves I envied them. I wished I could have played like them when I was their age. That’s what prompted me to take this picture.
I won’t dare doing what these guys are doing.
I was at my place of work the other day when I noticed this man painting a roof. He was working at a building about 20 metres away from mine.
When I saw him up there on the roof, my tummy began to grumble.
I felt dizzy.
I had no camera with me at the time. So I picked up my phone and started taking a few shots. This one was the best from a series of photos that I took.
I don’t care how much he was paid to do this job. It is just something that I would not do. The least I would do is capture him as he paints.
Scaling The Fence
This boy was part of a group of boys who were bored stiff by the lack of sporting facilities in Mhluzi Township. They were playing at the old tennis court behind the stadium. Their game did not involve tennis balls or racquets, though.
They were competing to see who could scale the fence faster and climb higher than the rest.
I was also bored that Saturday morning and decide to walk around in search of images. When I approached the boys, they noticed that I had a camera and was taking pictures.
I don’t know what these boys thought of me. But they stopped whatever they were doing and started running away from me. This one was apparently the leader of the pack and the winner of their little game.
He was perched higher up the fence and when the other boys ran away, he was left behind. The expression on his face conveys both fear and desperation. Fear of falling down from the fence and the desperation of being caught up by this man with the camera.
I sympathised with him because I understood how he felt. But I also wanted to record what I saw and felt as this was also self-expression on my part.
My fear of heights somehow coincided with his. We were both afraid.
I Can See Clearly Now
I had to tell my employer that I was acrophobic. When he asked me to climb up to the roof of his business premises to fix an advertising board, I said no.
I couldn’t do it.
That’s when I explained to him that I was afraid of heights.
I was given the task of balancing this huge ladder for my colleagues who had no problem with heights.
When they reached the roof and I was free and on terra firma, I reached for my point-and-shoot and grabbed a few shots.
When my employer saw me taking pictures of my co-workers he exclaimed:
“This guy has the best job in the world.”
Thanks to Eric Kim, I managed to turn my fear of heights into something positive.
As a street photographer, what are you afraid of? You may have to face your fears head on. That way you can turn them into something that you can be proud of.
To learn more about Eric Kim’s approach to street photography, please go to his website.
You can also find out more about Eric Kim by visiting any of the following resources:
What is the one thing that you’ve learned from Eric Kim?
Have you attended any of his street photography workshops where he teaches people how to conquer the fear of shooting strangers?
Please leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.