How you can yourself with photography, and find more personal meaning in life with photography as a tool:
Why do we feel dissatisfied and purposeless in life?
This is my personal theory:
The reason many of us feel dissatisfied, listless, and depressed in life is because of the following reasons in life:
- Lack of purpose in life (what is the purpose of my life?)
- Nihilism (lack of spirituality or religion — therefore the daunting feeling that “all is for nothing”. My life is purposeless, so what is the point of living anyways?)
- Ennui/boredom: “Even the gods fight in vain to avoid boredom” once said Nietzsche. As humans, we crave novelty, excitement, and adventure. When life gets too comfortable or easy, we seek new adventures — mostly through sports, travel, buying fast cars, drugs, alcohol, etc.
- Fear: Many of us are held back by fear. Fear of failure, fear or rejection, and fear of physical and emotional pain and discomfort.
- Physical inactivity: Humans are designed to walk, hunt, and explore (much of our brain is engineered to coordinate movement, consider how complicated it is to walk and balance on two legs). Therefore, not being able to walk, move, and too much time sitting leads to physical-mental illnesses.
Why photography is an effective form of self-therapy
All the reasons listed above are from my personal life experiences, and have afflicted me at one point in my life or another.
The reason why I think photography is an effective form of self therapy is,
- It is free: we can do it with our phones or any camera.
- We can do it every day: no need to see a therapist at inconvenient times during the week. Instead, we can do it every day, on the way to work, during our lunch break, after work, etc.
- Everyone can do it: photography is the ultimate democratic medium. My mom makes photos every day, and so probably can you.
- No negative side effects: with photography, there is only upside, no downside. No need to use medication. You get exercise by walking. You meet new interesting folks and strangers, and have nice conversations with. You express yourself with the art of photography. You meet other passionate individuals, and join a community.
- It is simple: you just walk around, and make photos of whatever interests you. No expert needs to guide you.
This works for me, will not work for you.
To be frank, whenever I feel stressed, anxious, angry, or shitty — the best and most effective solution is just to take a walk around the block. It helps me clear my mind, and think through my thoughts (all great thoughts come to us through walking). And by making photos on top of walking, we kill two birds with one stone — the therapeutic walk, and the creative and artistic output of photography.
The social aspect
The great thing with photography isn’t to just be a lone wolf all the time. Rather, it comes from the joy of meeting new people, joining a community of other photographers, and sharing your passion with others.
One of the best cures for listlessness in life is to be social. To be around people who feel part of your tribe — folks who share your passion, and enthusiasm in life.
Therefore, photography gives you an opportunity to be around other passionate individuals.
Great opportunities include photography meet ups, photography walks, or photography workshops or seminars.
The creative aspect
As humans, we are hard-wired to be creators. We want to control our reality and external world. As children, we love legos (or now Minecraft) because we can create our own reality, and we can exhibit some control.
Also, we love to make art — all children are born artists, the difficulty is staying artists as we get older (Picasso).
Many of us when we become adults no longer make art. We are so caught up with our lives and making money — that we don’t have the opportunity to flex our artistic muscles. And we all know, if you don’t practice working out a muscle, the muscle will grow weak and atrophy.
What we want is artistic hypertrophy (gaining bigger and stronger artistic muscles). You can do this by being creative every day, by making photos everyday, making your own short films, by drawing, by dancing, by writing poetry, by making music.
Photography is the ultimate form of art. Why? Because it is democratic and open to us all. Anyone can partake. It is easy to pickup. It is instant. No need to take years of practice to learn how to paint or draw. You can start now, and today.
Don’t treat your photography lightly
Okay by now I think I’m singing to the choir —we as photographers (yes, you are a photographer) NEED to make photos on a daily basis. We MUST make photos, or else we are dying creatively.
The purpose of your photography
Photography also gives us a sense of purpose in life. A greater purpose.
For example, you might get purpose from your photography by being a visual historian of your own city, or local communities. Or, because your photos spark joy in the hearts of your viewers, you are bestowing joy upon others. You have a purpose.
For myself, my purpose is to help empower others through photography. I don’t necessarily think that my ultimate purpose is to help others become better photographers. Rather, to help teach others how to effectively use photography as a tool of self-empowerment. To teach people how to be more confident, brave, and bold in their photography — to feel more joy in their every day life.
Also as a photographer, you might find purpose in working on photography projects that try to uncover some sort of social injustice you see in the world. You can use photography as a form of social critique. You can use photography as a tool to empower yourself, but also empower others.
Photo therapy assignments
- For an entire month, you’re only allowed to shoot pictures on your phone. This will ensure you can easily make photos every day, without having an excuse of not having a camera with you.
- To overcome the fear of interacting with strangers, try the “10 no challenge” from STREET NOTES. Approach a bunch of strangers to make their portrait, and you must keep asking until you get 10 people to say “no” to you. This is the ultimate form of overcoming the fear of rejection —the purpose is to get rejected. Once you get 10 nos, you will feel infinitely more confident.
- Print out 20 of your favorite photos, and make an album with your partner or friend. Any physical, haptic, hands on experience with photography is more satisfying, and brings us joy. Print your photos at a local drugstore, photo shop, or just print them online (I use mpix.com)
- Start a self-portrait series of yourself. Shoot a selfie of yourself every day for a year. This will help you learn to better understand your own personal relationship with your self-image.
- Treat photography like play: Like a child, shoot pictures without hesitation, without boundaries, or concern for composition or how to make a “good” picture. Instead, just shoot for fun.
Why do you make photos, and how does photography help you in your life? Share your thoughts in ERIC KIM FORUM