Thanks for talking with us today TJ. Tell us, how did you get into street photography?
A few years ago, I had a chance to chat with a photographer who introduced me to street photography. Until then, I’d never known that taking pictures of random people in public places could be an art form because it’s banned in my home country, South Korea.
Yeah, I’d heard that before about South Korea. Fascinating. And how would you describe your street photography style?
I try to capture candid moments in cinematic style.
Personally, cinematic street shots are some of my favorites. That’s probably why I was drawn to your work. Well, that and I felt like your photos show the little moments a local would notice and appreciate, which is interesting considering you aren’t from New York originally right?
I’m originally from South Korea, but I’ve been living in NY for seven years and it’s been a pleasure capturing so many diverse New Yorkers on the street. I think New York is one of the most creative cities to take street photography.
Are there any photographers you draw inspiration from?
To be honest, there are so many photographers who inspire me. Arnold Daniel, Nguan, Shane Taylor, Eric Van Nynatten, etc.
There really are so many talented photographers out there. Thanks for sharing some of your faves. On another topic, what would you say have been your biggest challenges as a photographer and how have you overcome them?
The ethical standard has been my inner challenge because street photography is about taking people’s photos without asking for their permission. That’s one of the reasons I started shooting beautiful cinematic moments instead of capturing people suffering on the street. I don’t want the subjects to feel bad if they see my photos somewhere.
That’s a really nice approach to take. What about this pandemic? How has Covid-19 impacted your street photography routine? It looks like you’ve managed to still go out and shoot safely – what has the experience taught you?
I walked around the city in April and I can’t explain how shocked I was. I’ve learned that New York without New Yorkers is not New York anymore.
“New York without New Yorkers is not New York anymore.”
I paused taking pictures for a few months because there was nobody on the street, but I started up again by late summer. Many people are hiding their faces behind masks, so they seem more comfortable having their photo taken by a street photographer.
What is your most memorable moment or image from the streets?
I’m personally very touched when I see senior couples walking on the street. You can tell so much by just looking at them: the years they’ve spent together in this tough city, their matched style, even the way they touch one another tells a loving story without even hearing from them.
That’s sweet. What would you say you’ve learned from street photography in general?
Street photography changed the way I look at normal life. I feel like I developed an extra sense that I didn’t have before. Now I see the moments that I would have missed if I hadn’t started street photography.
Well said, TJ. I think we can all agree with those sentiments.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about TJ and see more of his work, be sure to visit his Flickr photostream and follow him on Instagram. This photographer was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine.