Street Photography Q&A
Pam asked, "How do you make contact "with the brands that you work with? "Do they make contact with you sometimes? "Do you make contact with them? "How does that work?"
Well, a lot of the times with me is that it's a very reactive kinda thing. I never really pitched to anyone. When I've put myself into situations where my work speaks to the audience what I'm trying to really convey, and those people and the clients that are gravitating towards their birthday start to reach out to me and the conversations that we're having is, instead of you're just doing this cookie cutter kinda thing. Oh yeah, you're really cool. Why won't you do this? No this is my style, so hopefully we can come to some kind of medium, because if it doesn't work then it doesn't work, and I have absolutely, I've been broke before so I have no problem saying no. (laughing) And I think that actually communicates way better in the long run too, because you're actually doing things that you're actually wanna communicat...
e with yourself and with your audience as well, too.
Yeah, cool. Any questions in here? Yeah, go ahead.
So, I've done, this is totally my style, and I've been to like Southeast Asia, and it seems like when you take pictures of people in Third World countries, they're really receptive to that but then, being, I don't know how's this on the East Coast but being on the West Coast, it seems like if you walk around downtown, people don't really like you taking their picture or will kind of give you a sideways glance. So how do you balance doing street photography with making sure that people don't come after you?
There is a weird balance because if, I've definitely been in situations before where people have gotten borderline aggressive, because they just don't understand what's going on, and then at that time, I was arguing back with them, I was like, "What the fuck you talking?" But instead of that, I just try to be way more empathetic. So there are situations, say we make too much eye-contact. I would just try to give them a compliment. Like, you look so cool right now. You look really sick, and then just try to show that I'm not just trying to use you. I'm documenting this because this is important to me, and I think that this is a moment that you would probably like as well, too, so as long as you have this open kinda balance of just giving a compliment here or there or just sometimes trying to be very sneaky. (laughing) Sometimes I just really try to be a fly on the wall and sometimes I have to kinda circle back and forth a place, without just being a weirdo, but you really have to find this balance. If you get caught, you're caught. Hey, what's up. (laughing) Do you mind if I just do this? Even though it's gonna be a little bit more staged, the first shot will probably be staged, but the second shot will probably be the shot that you really wanna get. So, yeah, you have to really go back and forth, and you really have to gauge every situation very specific for that situation.
Yeah, so on the business side of things, would you say that you've had any key moments or revelations when it comes to the entrepreneurial side of it? So, just kinda building on the question that they asked how you got that job with Nike. Maybe not how you got that job with Nike, but what do you think has been the most impactful things that you've done and Street Dreams has done to get you to that point?
That's a real good question. I think a lot of it comes down to building a portfolio, and then you don't really realize that social media is the new age first impression, so everything that you put on Instagram or everything that you put on Twitter is your first impression, even for your homies, or especially for clients, so when we first started off with Street Dreams, a lot of this stuff that we were doing, we didn't really realize at the time was that we were really representing the best contemporary photography that we felt, so a lot of brands that we started to work with or wanted to reach out with us, reach out to us, rather, they wanted the same thing that we've been promoting and the same thing that we've been pushing. A lot of the times, like for Nike activations or an Adidas or Under Armour, or anybody has an activation like that, they're looking at the body of work that you're building up to that point, so if you were taking a lotta street photography shots, or you're taking a lot of basketball-style photos or you're taking literally anything, more into portrait photography, you're doing more landscapes, that kinda work will represent the kind of work you will get, and then a lotta the things that we were representing a lot was street photography. So I was documenting New York. I was documenting everything that was happening around me, so a lotta the brand partners that I was starting to work with wanted that same kinda feeling. Then, when you actually get into the room with them, transparency is key. Being open and direct about what you wanna do, and then also trying to communicate back and forth has been the most beneficial thing for me ever. I've never tried to be deceitful with anybody that I was working with. If I wanted more money, I was like, hey, I want more money. I'm not gonna sneak-dis you on Twitter or say anything like that to put anything out there. Being direct with brands and people that work with the brands just lead to more opportunities because they won't work at these same jobs forever, either. A lot of my friends that worked at Nike now work at Fox Sports or something like that. They work at Bleacher Report, so their career progresses as well as your career is progressing as well, too, so as long as you put in the work at building your portfolio, and you're representing the work that you wanna represent, the clients will feel the same exact way, too.
[Female Audience Member] What my question was, was about Street Dreams. I saw the show last night, and it was fantastic, and I actually got to meet Eric.
[Female Audience Member] I had to go. I had to go feed my dogs, but (laughing) what I wanna know, is how can we be down? If we are in alignment with what you're doing?
I think with Street Dreams, the question is hell yeah. There is an open door for anybody that really loves their work, and especially when the passion is communicated with the photography or with a creativity. We're getting more into art as well, too, because I'm an art fiend as well, and I love a lotta different artists. We really wanna incorporate the things that, not only that we love the most, but the artists themselves love the most, so then that's why we really communicate so well in our publication and our galleries. When we're curating the magazine, we're not asking people for specific photos. We was like, you send us what you love, and then that's what means the most. We're not trying to curate anything. The curation comes from the artist that you're working with in the first place. We not only wanna represent the photographer, but we really wanna represent the work. We look at it as a time capsule, so hell yeah, anything that you ever wanna send to me, you could definitely E-mail me, DM me, or. I can't get off of my phone, so (laughing) you can definitely hit me up any time.
[Female Audience Member] Thank you.
When you present the images to the client, do you present both black and white, color? How do you do that? Do you present? How do you handle between choosing between black and white?
At first I was very hesitant, but submitting a whole black and white folder because colored photography is obviously, I'm not trying to say I hate color photos like I'm just on a rampage, but I connect more with the black and white photos. I feel like they're stronger, so what I usually do is I create a virtual copy in my Lightroom, and I will upload both of them. So then I will show the client, oh these are the color ones, but the black and white ones bang so much more, and then it comes down to them. If they like the color ones, then that's fine. I can easily let it go, because this is about what they want, anyway. It's not about what I want. So I'm just trying to make sure I'm trying to represent my work and what they wanna represent the best as possible.
I was just wondering how you change the way you selected of showing pictures. Before, when you just started off verses how you went in to becoming more of what you're doing now.
I'm sorry, can you rephrase that?
The way you selected of showing your images to people, what you decided to--
Thoughts like posting?
That's a constant battle, honestly. I feel like what people are not being really honest with in social media and the Instagram culture is that there is a little bit of both of it. You wanna make sure that the people that you have that are following you already, it doesn't matter if it's two people or 2,000, you wanna make sure that they are accommodated and they like it, because art is about sharing, but at the same time, you wanna make sure that it still stays true to what you wanna represent, so I've really struggled with that for a long time. There's a lot of Instagram fads that you see amongst your peers that you end up emulating, and then soon as I start to feel like that, I become super anti. I just wanna do exactly the opposite of everything, but that is a balance, and I feel like just being honest and acknowledging the fact that you probably feel like I'm shooting too much of this or I'm shooting too much of that. You should just switch it up. It feels a lot better, honestly.