ERIC KIM with Contax II rangefinder, 2009
ERIC KIM with Contax II rangefinder, 2009

“I am an amateur and intend to remain one my whole life long. I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior, their life. The photographer’s art is a continuous discovery, which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it’s marked.” – Andre Kertesz


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The secret of lifelong inspiration

Forever be an amateur spread from MASTERS

The secret to being an inspired photographer for your entire life? Easy: forever be an amateur.

To be called an ‘amateur’ photographer is o en seen as an insult. But the truth is: ‘amateur’ comes from the word ‘amator’, latin for ‘love.’ Therefore, an ‘amateur’ photographer is someone who shoots for the love of it. You can make money from photography and still be an ‘amateur’, because photography is your love.

Finger pointing. Amsterdam, 2017
Finger pointing. Amsterdam, 2017

To shoot photography for the love it means that you are ‘intrinsically’ driven. You do not make photos for the ‘extrinsic’ rewards of fame, social media followers, or money.
When we work too hard to be ‘professional’ and ‘serious’ in our photography, we forget the playful spirit of children. I believe in this concept of ‘beginner’s mind‘ — when we are beginners, everything is new and exciting. We experiment. We play. We have fun.

Dark skies over Tokyo, 2011
Dark skies over Tokyo, 2011

Anders Petersen once said that his dream was to wander the streets, just like it was his first time. To wander the streets with the curious eye of a child. I want to do the same.

Another simple way to never lose inspiration in your photography is to avoid boredom. When you feel bored in your photography, switch things up.

Yellow arrow and pointing finger. Amsterdam, 2017
Yellow arrow and pointing finger. Amsterdam, 2017

Instead of shooting digital, try shooting 35mm film (FILM NOTES). Instead of always shooting in the same neighborhood, shoot in different part of town. Look at something familiar with a new fresh perspective.

Blue face and eyes. Amsterdam, 2017
Blue face and eyes. Amsterdam, 2017

And never forget to always question yourself, ‘Why do I make photos?’ Whenever I am in doubt, I ask myself ‘why‘.

For myself, I make photos to find more personal meaning in my life. To feel more connected to society. To find more appreciation in the beauty of everyday life, and to be grateful to be alive.

Blue sky. Amsterdam, 2017
Blue sky. Amsterdam, 2017

Nowadays, I make photos of my friends, loved ones, and family more than of strangers. Why? Because I know at the end of my life, the photos of my loved ones will matter the most.
So friend, never forget why you make photos. Never stop wondering, growing, and shooting. Be a life- long amateur photographer, and your curiosity will never die.

Colorful wall abstract. Amsterdam, 2017
Colorful wall abstract. Amsterdam, 2017

NEVER STOP LEARNING,
ERIC & CINDY
Excerpt from LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

Amateur isn’t a dirty word

ERIC KIM abstract selfie, Amsterdam 2017
ERIC KIM abstract selfie, Amsterdam 2017

When we start any hobby or passion in life, we talk down ourselves and say that “I’m just an amateur”.

Let’s change the culture. Instead, revel and be PROUD in the fact that you’re an amateur.

Red and blue abstract. Amsterdam, 2017
Red and blue abstract. Amsterdam, 2017

Even if you’re a professional photographer and making a living from photography. If you still love what you’re doing, you’re an amateur.

Hand tattoo. Amsterdam, 2017
Hand tattoo. Amsterdam, 2017
  • Consider, you can be a professional photographer and NOT an amateur (like shooting baby photos at the mall, and hate your job).
  • Also, you can be an amateur (have a day job) and LOVE your photography.

The secret is we all want to stay amateurs.

Beginner’s mind / Child’s mind

Abstract. Amsterdam, 2017
Abstract. Amsterdam, 2017

I love the zen concept of Beginner’s mind / Child’s mind.

Eyes. Amsterdam, 2017
Eyes. Amsterdam, 2017

Do you remember how passionate or interested you were when you started photography? Before you learned “rules”, and what to do, and what not to do?

Before you cared about fancy equipment and technical settings?

Happy Ricoh.
Happy Ricoh GR II

Nowadays I just shoot with my RICOH GR II and ERIC KIM STRAP, keep it in program mode, and just shoot like a beginner. This way, I have more fun. I’m always motivated to shoot now, because I’m shooting like a bigass kid. I don’t take myself or my photography too seriously, which has been advantageous to me.

This is also why I like to teach workshops — I gain the enthusiasm of my students, and feel their excitement — just like I felt when I started photography.

Expert trap

Yellow and blue dark skies over Tokyo, 2011
Yellow and blue dark skies over Tokyo, 2011

Beware the danger of becoming an “expert”. Your mind becomes rigid and brittle. You are no longer flexible and open to new ideas, techniques, and strategies. This I think is what happened to Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was too much of an expert, and set in his ways. He quit photography, perhaps because he found it boring.

Blue background, black tree, red leaves. Abstract by ERIC KIM
Blue background, black tree, red leaves. Abstract by ERIC KIM

Whereas Josef Koudelka kept experimenting, evolving, and trying new things, like shooting panoramic images instead of just standard 35mm. I want to be like Koudelka when I grow up.

Be like bamboo

Leaves. Saigon abstract. 2017
Leaves. Saigon abstract. 2017

I like the analogy of bamboo: strong yet flexible.

  • Strong in your artistic vision, and not compromising.
  • Flexible in the details, and how you shoot.

I think the secret to becoming a truly individual, and great artist is to balance these two.

Questions to ask yourself

Blue abstract. Kyoto, 2017
Blue abstract. Kyoto, 2017

To become an amateur again, ask yourself,

  • “If I started photography all over again today, what camera would I shoot with?” It will probably be your phone.
  • “If I were 5 years old, what would I photograph?”
  • “What kind of subject matter did I photograph when I started photography?”
  • “Did I have more fun when I started photography, or now?”

Assignments to respark your inner amateur

Blue curtain abstract. Kyoto, 2017
Blue curtain abstract. Kyoto, 2017
  1. Only shoot JPEG for a month: This will prevent you from caring too much about post processing and the stress of RAW.
  2. No rules, just shoot whatever you want. No inner censor.
  3. Don’t try to make “good” pictures, seek to make fun pictures.

HAVE FUN,
ERIC

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