“Blessings on blessings on blessings. Look at my life man, that’s lessons on lessons on lessons.” – Big Sean (Blessings)
Man, we are so blessed. We have so many blessings in our life. We have blessings on blessings on blessings, yet it is easy to forget all the wonderful things we have in our life.
The other day I was looking at my digital Ricoh GR and thought to myself, “My God, it is incredible that we have the digital technology to make such fantastic images. You no longer need to be the slave of the darkroom, you can purchase a compact camera with a DSLR sensor for $550, and a laptop is an entire photo processing system.”
Not only that, but you can buy a pretty good laptop for less than $500. You can even buy a Chromebook for less than $200. Not only that, but with the Internet, we have access to the sum of all humanity’s knowledge at our fingertips.
We have all the free digital tools as photographers. We have VSCO to process our photos with realistic film presets, we have iPhones (a more than capable camera for 99% of people), free nearly cloud storage (1TB on Flickr), free blogging platforms (WordPress), document production (Google Docs), and free online galleries (Facebook, Instagram).
I know it is easy to complain about what we don’t have– rather than what we do have. After all, advertising, marketing breeds discontent in our hearts. We feel like what we have isn’t ever good enough.
What is the solution to this discontent? I feel it is putting a limit to our goods and advancements.
For example, put a budget on the maximum amount of money you’re ever willing to spend on a camera. Otherwise, you will fall into a vortex in which no camera will satisfy for you.
You can spend an unlimited amount of money on cameras, equipment, lenses, etc. Just because you have a digital Leica doesn’t mean that you will be satisfied. Once you have a digital Leica, you will want to upgrade your lens from a Summicron to a Summilux. Then a Noctilux. Then you want two digital Leicas (one color and one monochrom). Then you want a medium format digital camera (Phase One). Then you want a faster computer. Then you want more lenses, and you want to start collecting film cameras. The madness never ends friend (trust me, I have been through it).
No matter how many followers you have on social media, it will never be enough. I remember when I had 50 followers– how excited I was to even get 10 “likes”. Now 1,000 “likes” no longer phases me. I won’t be satisfied until I get 10,000 “likes”. And no matter how many followers I have, I will never have as much as Justin Bieber.
I think if you want to really be satisfied with social media– you need to retire from it. I’ve been off Instagram for around two months now and I have felt so stress-free, less anxious, and a lot happier in general. I no longer have the pressure of wondering what photo to upload to Instagram today. Rather, I enjoy the process of shooting more, and I don’t feel pressured to always be uploading images to “satisfy my followers”.
Another thing I’ve discovered taking a break from social media: I’ve had the freedom to explore other types of photography (for example, shooting “Personal Photography” of Cindy, and even shooting black and white landscapes at the beach, which brought me a lot of joy).
Funny enough– I’ve also discovered a lot more satisfaction writing and blogging by turning off comments and not looking at statistics (views). Why? I feel that I am truly “writing for myself” and treating writing like self-therapy, meditation, and sharing a few personal ideas for a few friends who might be reading this.
The problem with blogging is this– the days you have a lot of page views you feel awesome. But then the days you don’t get as many views, you feel miserable. You then consult your stats and realize that you get more page views whenever you blog about a new camera. So you get tempted to write more camera reviews, to keep the treadmill of page views rolling.
To express yourself as a unique voice, photographer, and artist is to shut yourself out from the world, and to listen to your own inner-voice. Rather than always looking at others for admiration, affirmation; you need to first affirm yourself.
Ask yourself: do you like your own photos? Are there photos that you like that nobody else likes? Whose opinion is more important: your own opinion of your own photos, or what others think of your work?
Don’t be squeezed into a box
Can the type of photography you make be put into a genre? Or does your taste in photography exceed boundaries? Can you really call yourself a “street photographer”, a “documentary photographer”, a “photo journalist”, a “landscape” photographer?
As human beings, our souls are too expressive and vast to be put into reductive categories.
We are citizens of the world, not just nationals to our own countries. As human beings, we share more in common with our neighbors and strangers.
As a photographer, you probably are interested in many different types and genres of photography. Don’t let yourself be caged into a certain genre. Explore all forms of photography, and express yourself to the maximum. Strive to “be all you can be.”
Creating is life
I feel the happiest and most blessed when I am creating.
When it comes to physics, all materials are inert (when we don’t apply force and motion to it). We need to act upon the world if we want to create value.
For example, your camera is useless if you don’t take photos with it. If you don’t hit the shutter button on your camera, it is just a useless metal box.
I think painters are the happiest when they are painting. One they’re done painting, they no longer enjoy themselves.
The same with writers– they have so much more enjoyment, joy, and happiness in the process of writing. When they’re done writing a book, there is a momentary feeling of satisfaction, but at that moment they are already looking to write the next book (look at how prolific Stephen King and Murakami are).
I just want to happy and I want to feel “fully fulfilled”. When I’m sitting on my ass, I feel like I’m wasting away. I feel useless.
When do I feel “happy” and “useful”? When I am helping others via writing, teaching, or creating (photos or writing).
But at the same time, I feel we need to count our blessings. Because even if we were the most “successful” person in the world, we would still be miserable without appreciating our blessings.
How to banish dissatisfaction
I feel the remedy to dissatisfaction is twofold:
- Counting our blessings
- Actively creating
To be active and create a lot of great art without appreciation is useless.
To sit on your ass and do nothing and be blessed is a bit useless to me as well.
I feel there is something deep in our human DNA to want to contribute to other human beings. After all, human beings have survived (until now) because we are the most social beings on the earth. Without helping one another, benefiting one another, and receiving benefits, there is no way we would have been able to make it to where we are.
Counting our blessings
Whenever I feel ungrateful or lust after some new something, I try to write a list of things I am grateful for. Psychologists have discovered that by keeping a “gratitude journal” and writing at least three things everyday you are grateful for, you are able to much better visualize your blessings, and as a result you are more satisfied with your life.
Me and Cindy always say grace before eating our food, and we not only count our blessings, but we also send our love to our close friends and family and those around us.
Also before we sleep, we always have a habit of saying: “What was your favorite thing today?” No matter how crappy our day might have been, there is always at least one thing we can be blessed about.
Unlock your inner-genius
One of the interesting things I’ve learned about Ancient Greek and Roman history is that it was assumed that every human being was blessed with their own “genius” (a creature inside your soul, which inspired you with creativity and ingenuity).
So don’t think of “genius” being reserved to a few individuals in the world. We all have an inner-genius inside ourselves. The secret is just being able to unlock that inner-genius; which I believe what happens when we are in the middle of doing creative work.
Even if you have nothing to photograph, there is always something you can see and appreciate. The light streaming through your window, your loved one sleeping in bed, or the old couple holding hands at the coffee shop.
Be proud of yourself
Rather than comparing yourself with others, be proud of yourself. Be proud of all the progress you’ve made in your photography up until now.
Don’t compare yourself with others, but look behind you and realize how far you’ve come. Think about how ignorant you were when you started off in photography. And now consider how knowledgeable and skilled you are.
Remember your first photos, how unsophisticated they were. And how your photos now are a lot better.
We need to appreciate the progress we’ve made up until now, and celebrate these “small wins”.
The biggest blessing
The biggest blessing is to be alive. To be a part of human society. To have the creative capacity in our minds. To own a camera– a tool that helps us be more creative, to capture beauty in the world.
We are blessed to have all these digital technologies which connect us with anybody in the world. We have access to all the tools we will ever need, we have access to all the information we will ever need– what is holding us back? Not our lack of money, not because we need a full frame camera, nor where we live.
Our own limit is imposed by our own minds. And know that you have no limits.
So keep stacking those blessings on blessings on blessings, and become the most “self-realized” artist you can possibly be. And the first step? Just make that one photo, and keep marching onwards.
11:16am, Sunday Feb 28, 2016 typed on IA writer on an iPad– the closest digital equivalent to a typewriter. Could use some more coffee, but blessed to have Cindy in my life, my mom is visiting for dinner later, the sun is shining– life is good.