Don’t think too hard: Defining a genre of photography should be empowering, not restrictive


posted Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 5:59 AM EST


Defining photographic genres can be quite difficult, and street photography is no exception. It’s not always clear what it is, nor how it overlaps with other types of photography such as photojournalism, documentary photography, or even portrait and architectural photography. Eric Kim is a prominent street photographer whose articles we’ve featured on numerous occasions, and he has made a video discussing what street photography is. While his definition is just his own personal view, he’s as good a candidate for defining the genre as anyone. 

Eric notes the importance of not letting how you view street photography -- or any genre of photography -- restrict you creatively. When he first started doing street photography, he considered it any type of photography done on the street of people who hadn’t first given you permission to shoot their photo. Having a rigid idea of street photography in your head forces your hand to some degree, and can prevent you from shooting the work you want to. For Kim, he likes interacting with people and he wasn’t doing this at first because of his conception of street photography.

This brings us to a very critical point: Your idea of a genre of photography need not be fine-grained nor static. Changing your conception allows you the opportunity to be more creatively free. Eric Kim’s definition of street photography now is “documenting humanity.” It doesn’t get much more broad than that. If you want to define it differently, you should! Your ideas about photography inform and reflect your personal style and goals, so let yourself be the photographer you want to be.

As is always the case, Eric’s video below is a must-watch for street photographers, but also has lessons that apply to any kind of photography. Check it out below!

To see more of Eric Kim’s work, visit his website. You can also head over to his frequently-updated blog for a wealth of free resources that will help you improve your street photography, and your photography in general.

(Seen via Eric Kim)