Just a little over a week ago I had one of the most memorable photographic weekends ever when I attended the workshop “Conquer Your Fears in Street Photography” with Street Photo Legend Eric Kim in Berlin. For my in depth experiences from the workshop plus a bunch of both “behind the scenes” images and my workshop “results” continue after the jump…
Not long after I started shooting in the streets, I discovered Eric Kim’s blog, and I’ve been an avid reader ever since. If you want to know what role he plays in today’s street shooting scene, just enter “street photography” in Google search, and his website comes up first (not to brag, but if you enter “street photography nuremberg” in Google search, the “Streets of Nuremberg” appear top of the list as well 😉 ).
I like Eric’s unconventional, simplistic approach to Street Photography, the wide variety of things he shoots, all easily recognizable by his very distinctive style. His goal is to empower people, and he intensively does so with all the fantastic open source material he provides on his website and via his blog.
So when I discovered that he planned one of his workshops on my doorstep in Berlin, there was little hesitation in signing up for my personal face-to-face Eric Kim experience.
The camera I brought along was my trusted street shooter Olympus PEN-F with the mZuiko 12mm F/2 and the mZuiko 25mm F/1.8, which I used for 90% of my shots.
We met on a Saturday morning in a gallery in Berlin, where a former student of Eric, Russian born and now US based artist and photographer Mitya Trotzky was running an exhibition of his “Fugitive Souls” project (if you are in Berlin, go see it, it is still running until January 6th 2018).
Eric and his wife Cindy welcomed me and 12 other participants with the same energy I knew from his blogposts. From the first moment I was fully comfortable and impressed by the group that shared the same spirit, despite the fully diverse backgrounds and wide range in age. After first fun introductions Eric assigned us each a shooting buddy from the group, and we started taking shots of each others in a little role play to get comfy. You can see my shots of my shooting buddy Michel Atreides above – and make sure you visit his awesome website www.fallingintoadream.com.
After the warm-ups and some prep-talk from Eric we went out onto the Streets of Berlin. While half of the group walked with Eric for some practical hands on advice and shooting, the other half worked in their shooting buddy pairs on two simple assignments: Ask people walking the streets for their portraits and try to collect 10 “no – thanks”, and snapping pictures of people until the notice you and then start to interact with them. All in all it was so much fun and so much easier than expected. Michel and myself pushed each other to ask the most interesting looking people we encountered, and we got to talk to super interesting people, meeting amongst other two crazy boys from Edinburgh, a make-up stylist from Italy and a designer of fetish garments. They all were happy to share their stories, we exchanged cards and promised them to send them their photos.
Yes, there were also people not interested, or to shy to get their portrait taken. But not once did any of us got any hostile comment, the worst we collected was a simple “no thanks”. And actually it was quite difficult to collect the ten “no” before we met with Eric for the lunch break at a coffee shop
My lessons learned was that the more interesting, stylish and strange people look, the more likely they have no problem having their photo taken, as most had a very extrovert nature anyway.
This great guy from Scotland was photographed first by Michel. When my shooting buddy turned to take a portrait of his friend, I complimented this guy on the tattoos on his hands. Then he asked me if I would like to see more. When I said yes he “drew blank” 🙂 .
And here we are again, there are so many people who are actually glad someone doesn’t only look at them in a strange way, but is actually showing interest in their looks and stories and are happy to let you take their photo.
After the lunch break it was our turn to venture out with Eric. It was incredibly beneficial for me to learn hands on from one of the masters, and there was so much to pick up on valuable advice and tips he shared with the group, while having a lot of fun due to Eric’s funny nature.
Day 1 ended with a dinner at a nice little restaurant where we shared war stories from the day and some great shop talk with Eric and Cindy.
Sunday morning we all met at a coffee shop, where we also met Eric’s sister Annette, who joined us for the day. With a fresh assignment we walked out again towards the Mauer Park flea market at the Berlin wall, another great place to shoot street portraits (both candid and with permission). On the second day, asking interesting people if I could “make” their portrait came almost naturally, as approaching and asking people was no big deal anymore.
I saw this interesting looking guy in a seventies look wandering around the flea market, and I decided I wanted his portrait, so I observed him. When suddenly realizing he was about to leave, I practically chased him down and asked if I could make his portrait. He smiled at me and replied “sure, but only a little one”. He is the owner of a 70’s garments boutique in Berlin. His partner was even more dressed in a stunning 70’s outfit, but when I asked her she politely refused, so I left it at that, but was rewarded with at least one great portrait and a good story.
The question I got a lot during the workshop from the people was a surprised “Why me?” But I simply explained I liked their looks, that I’m a street photographer documenting the daily live of our times and that I have a blog where I publish my photos and also theirs if they are fine with it. Some interactions were really brief, and in some we really talked about the stories of life, which I found so enriching.
After the flea market we had a break in Eric’s favorite Berlin coffee shop (read my post about it here).
After coffee we headed back out for some street photography composition lessons like shooting layered street photos, that turned out to be a fun group shooting observed by amused pedestrians. Walking back to the gallery was also a great opportunity for some great talk with Eric and his sister Annette.
At the end of the workshop we all met again at the gallery where Eric gave us some tips on post processing and editing images. Especially valuable were his tips around “killing your babies”, how to cull your shots down to the few really great ones.
We then all had to kill our workshop babies and select the bet three shots that were openly discussed by the group, to select the master photo from every participant (you can find the post on Eric’s blog with the winners here).
I already did a post about my three best shots.
Then it was already time to say goodbye. While some stayed on for a joined dinner, I needed to head back to Nuremberg which turned out to be a five hour drive, most of it through the first snow storm of the season.
In conclusion, it was an awesome workshop, that delivered on my expectations and extended my photographic boundaries. Besides, it gave me the opportunity to meet and work with a bunch of incredibly talented people with whom I hope to stay in touch going forward, because they are inspirational to me.
It was awesome to have the opportunity to meet Eric, Cindy and Annette, who not only organized a brilliant session, but also impressed with their fun and open minded attitude and their great competency around what they do. This great bunch I “knew” from the Internet turned out to be really great people in reality that were a pleasure to work with.
An Eric Kim workshop is not a cheap thing to visit. You can get a real good camera body or a great piece of glass for the fee you need to pay. Was it worth investing the money in this workshop instead of gear? Absolutely. You just don’t become a better photographer from better equipment, but by studying the masters, learning from the best and by going out shooting with peers who inspire you and push your limits.
Thanks so much to Eric, Cindy and Annette, Michel and all the others for a great and memorable weekend I will never forget. Hope to see you all again to roam the streets of whatever city together.
Click here if you want to see our feedback video that Eric published on his youtube channel, there is also a statement from myself in there 😉
Finally, I want to explicitly state that this review is fully based on my personal experience as a regular participant of the workshop, on my interactions with Eric, Cindy, Annette and my shooting peers, that I paid the full workshop fee and do not receive any benefits for writing this. It is intended to provide my readers with guidance if this (or any other similar) street photo workshop would be a worthy investment for them.
Don’t forget to check out my free Learning Center for all my tips and inspirations around street photography.
Have a great Thursday