So, this very young guy tells me if I give him a lot of money, he’ll talk to me and let me walk around Chicago and take pictures. Hmmmmm. Should I do this?

Yes, and I did, and Eric Kim’s workshop was superb. There was a large group of 14, but we split up into pairs to walk around the streets of downtown Chicago, mostly in the “loop”. Then we showed our 10 best shots to the whole group for critique. With my X100S, I was paired with Michelle, an tiny, outgoing lady with a big honkin’ Nikon 6D. She lives in Chicago, so she knew her way around. Together, we assailed non-suspecting subjects on the street, shooting them .7 meters from their faces.

I’ve been serious about photography, on and off, practically my whole life, especially in the last few years. As I evolved into Street Photography, or at least my interpretation of it, I endeavoured to develop my own unique style, so I thought that Eric’s workshop would really help me here. And it definitely did, not so much creating a style, but showing me what my style is not.

Everyone had their own goals and expectations from the workshop, but I think the core topic was to get close to the subject for street portraits, trying to capture emotion. This is obviously not always easy with strangers, so Eric coached us and pushed us right into their faces, and we did indeed get more comfortable with this. Chicago, by the way, is a great place for this, as the people are the friendliest I’ve seen anywhere. Seems like almost everyone was smiling, even though it was cold. Michelle and I had a lot of fun out there. A city like Moscow may not be so easy-going.

Back to “style”. Well, it’s nice to have the courage to shoot a close-up street portrait, but I don’t think that’s my style, unless the right opportunity shows itself. I think the subject has to be very interesting before I do that. I shoot other types of photographs as well, like when travelling, I may do some landscape or cityscape. But I’m not sure that a personal style can traverse genre, and maybe I don’t care. I do believe that style can evolve over time. For example, I’m shooting in black and white more and more. The only time I’ll use colour anymore in a street shot is when the photo is crying out for that. Mixing up your style a little can be a good thing – you don’t want to become a prisoner of your own style!

We had a guest speaker Satoki Nagata, based in Chicago, who is a great photographer and artist, and definitely has a distinctive style. But that doesn’t mean that I would want that style, although I really enjoy looking at his art. Some people say that you should look at many of the photographs of the masters, while others say that you shouldn’t look at anyone else’s work. I think that like good whisky and cigars, moderation is essential.

My main goal, or project, was to show people and the human condition in Chicago. Did I move closer to my own unique style? I don’t know, but I hope you can see the message I’m trying to convey, and I hope you enjoy.

[click on any photo for slideshow]

Eric doing his presentation


Eric and Kathi