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Toronto through the lens of Eric Kim

Toronto is a hub of photography. In addition to being one of the most photographed cities in the world, some of the best professional and amateur photographers out there can be found roaming our streets with camera in hand. To keep tabs on all this local talent, every Saturday we feature the work of a Toronto-based photographer in our series "Toronto through the lens of."

This week I got in touch with Eric Kim, who was in town to run a street photography workshop. If you're not familiar with Kim's work, he practices a unique form of street shooting that we chatted about below.

I think the first question that comes to mind when seeing you work is, how do you manage to do this without getting hurt? Have you ever been assaulted? what was the worst reaction you've ever encountered?

The most important thing to consider is to keep a smile on your face and don't act threatening to your subjects. Shoot openly and honestly. Don't try to hide the fact that you are taking photos of your subjects. I always make sure to take photos of people head-on, which gives them a second or two to realize I am taking a photo of them. 95% of the time I never have an issue.

There have been a few instances in which I have been confronted and people have gotten belligerent. The best way to deescalate a situation is to offer to delete somebody's photo (although it is within your legal right to shoot street photography in public). Also it is important to speak calmly and explain why you are taking the photo. For example, if you think someone had a wonderful outfit, let them know that you loved their outfit. If you think their face captivated you, let them know that as well.

Recently I was with a fellow photographer, and I took a photo of a rather fashionable Asian-male walking near Dundas square. He started yelling at me for taking his photo, and asked me to delete his image. I politely declined and explained that I had every right to take a photo of him, as he was in a public space. He then started getting in my face, and even tried to pull my camera strap and get my camera. I stood my ground, while my friend pushed the guy away. He threatened to call the cops, and I told him to do so. After around 20 minutes of bickering, he realized he had no case and stormed away.

What inspired you to start taking photos?

I am fascinated by society and the people all around us. While an undergraduate at UCLA, I studied sociology and found human interaction absolutely fascinating. Also, even before shooting street photography, I would love to people-watch. I am particularly drawn to the human face. I feel the face can tell such a deep story — both of the good times and the bad.

How does street photography in Toronto compare to other cities/places?

Before coming to Toronto, I didn't quite know what to expect. Being from L.A., I had my typical stereotypes of Canadians idiosyncrasies — like the two-dollar coins, the spelling of everything with "u" (favourite vs favorite), as well as the cops on horses. However spending around a week in Toronto, I have fallen in love with the place. I was amazed by the diversity of Toronto, the great food and friendly people.

Getting back to the subject at hand, there are so many people and places to shoot in Toronto. It's a very busy and bustling city, with each neighborhood offering their own diversity of characters. I felt that even walking two blocks would totally change the environment and feel. Needless to say, Toronto has a great pulse and a great place to shoot street.

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When you go out to shoot what is one thing you cant leave home without?

I never leave home without a comfortable pair of shoes and the right attitude. Walking for an entire day can be a major strain to your legs and feet. Comfortable footwear is often overlooked.

Also having the right attitude is essential. Whenever I go out, I try to keep my mind like a clean slate and tell myself that I will capture the beauty of everyday life without fear. The type of photography I've been doing is quite aggressive and confrontational, but I always make sure to do it from my heart, to capture the souls of people.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in photography?

I actually have a few pieces of advice. First of all, don't worry too much about the gear. Focus on composition and actually going out there and taking photos! Make sure to always have your camera on hand, and when in doubt...click. Some people try to make photography very complicated when it doesn't need to be.

Last but not least, shoot from the heart. You cannot create a memorable image without soul.

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