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Street Photographer Teaches Students to Tame the Urban Jungle

Amateur photographer Dugie Cameron no longer takes photos – he makes them. He learned that lesson after attending his first photography workshop with Michael Kistler, a professional street photographer who recently set up shop in Hong Kong.

“[He] makes street photography accessible, he stretches you and combines a serious commitment with an infectious sense of fun and love of his craft,” Cameron told Localiiz.

Kistler recently moved from Japan, his home for the past 10 years, and is already making a name for himself among street photographers. I first met him at Instasavvy, a series of Instagram events sponsored in part by Localiiz, mixing and mingling amongst Hong Kong’s leading street photographers, smiling broadly as he complimented the art on the walls, sharing with each photographer what he liked about his or her work.

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When we met up a few weeks later to discuss his workshops at a café in Sheung Wan, the topic quickly turned to trends in street photography, from architectural themes to capturing candid life, each of us scrolling through Instagram for examples, and Kistler pointing out why they work or how the shot could be improved.

It was this interest in sharing his skills that led Kistler to co-found “Finding Yourself in the Streets”, an international photography workshop, with fellow photographer Mimo Khair. The two met online using the popular Flickr photo posting site, tracked each other’s work, challenged each other with tasks, and eventually set up shop with the first outing in Shanghai in June 2013. Since then they’ve taken students around Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Dubai. They plan to expand this year with workshops in New York City, Hanoi, and Chiang Mai, as well as returning to Dubai and Shanghai.

While the partners work to expand their start-up business, Kistler is looking to grow roots in Hong Kong with his own workshops for individuals and groups. His hands-on tutorials are proving popular.

“My first session with Michael was a birthday gift from a very kind friend. That was in September of last year. Since then, I have done two other sessions with him, one was just for me and the other was with a group of friends,” said Cameron.

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Photographer Michael D. Kistler. Photo: Mimo Khair

Kistler tailors each lesson based on his student’s needs. For some photographers, it’s learning to use new equipment or getting more from their mobile device’s camera, for others it’s about sharpening their eye and learning tips to take their photos up a few levels. No matter what the initial goal, Kistler teaches photographers how to be creative behind the lens.

Cameron listed off a few ways he now looks at the city following his workshops with Kistler. “The importance of reflections, which are amazing in our high rise city, the concept of finding a tableau and letting people walk into it, the strength of the unusual angle, for example shooting literally at street level, and the fact that iPhones can take just as good photos as high end expensive equipment.”

Michelle Lombard, a student who took a group lesson with Kistler, came away from the workshop with a new appreciation for her surroundings. “The way I now look at the streets around me is much different and I actually know what settings to change when I want to have a certain effect or when the photo I have taken is not representing what I see.”

In street photography, Kistler prizes flexibility, perhaps leaving behind a timetable if the moment is right to capture an image. He also encourages dialogue among students in groups, asking them to share and comment on their work during workshops, boosting creativity in the process.

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The most important lesson Kistler shares however, is flexing your photography muscle through repetition, shooting as much as possible as often as possible. Too often, Kistler said, students only dust off the camera for a holiday or special event.

Keeping his lessons in mind, Kistler has three simple goals for any student. “What I want, at the end of the day, is for people to know their cameras better, whether a mobile device or a DSLR. I want there to be more exposure to different types of techniques and I want them to come away with photos they are happy with.”

Interested in hitting the streets with Kistler? Check out his classes/workshops and schedule.

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