One of my dreams when I started off in photography was to somehow make a living with my photography.
I grew up pretty poor, so I knew that I didn’t really need much to be happy. All I needed to be happy was the company of my close friends, my family, and having the privilege of doing what I was passionate about.
1. What is wealth or being rich?
To me, wealth in photography (or being rich) is to content.
‘There is no difference between craving nothing, and possessing something.’ – Seneca
I also think in photography there is no difference between craving nothing, and possessing something.
What that means is this: it is identical to own all the cameras in the world, and to desire no cameras.
The feeling of having a million followers is the same as desiring no followers.
2. What do we really want in our photography?
The important takeaway point is this: we are all seeking for content, happiness, and tranquility in our photography. But we have the wrong conception that somehow having a lot of social media followers, having an expensive camera, and having lots of fame in our photography will make us ‘happy.’
Rather than seeking ‘happiness’ in our photography or ‘pleasure’ — I recommend that we try to find contentment in our photography. And to find contentment, it is mostly subtractive.
Once again, subtracting from our desires in photography, rather than fulfilling our desires.
3. How to find ‘enough’
‘Enough is never to little, and not-enough is never too much.’ – Seneca
For me, trust me, I am the biggest sucker for cameras, gear, and always being discontent (no matter how expensive my equipment). I have the wrong assumption that somehow owning a Leica, having all the right tools, and having a lot of money will make me more creative, happier, and more content.
In reality, I have found more contentment using a simple Ricoh GR camera, compared to shooting with a Leica. I prefer not owning a car, compared to owning a car. I prefer not worrying about social media, rather than having a million followers.
4. Be resourceful
“Borrow from yourself!” – Cato
Whenever I complain that my gear isn’t good enough, or I don’t have the right tools or opportunities, I try to think of how my constraint can be turned creative. I consider my shortcomings and lack of resources as fuel for my creativity.
I have learned how to ‘borrow from myself’ — meaning, I learn how to be more resourceful. I learn how to borrow from my creativity, ingenuity, and personal innovation.
For example, when I wanted to buy a medium-format digital camera for street portraits, I decided to try using my Ricoh GR (28mm in macro) instead. And I ended up taking more interesting photos, than if I had some fancy setup.
Another example: I never had the opportunity to study photography in school. So I learned (for free) from the masters of photography on the internet, and shared my learnings on this blog.
How can you turn your downside into an upside? Always consider ‘creative constraints’ in a positive light.
5. I’m a hypocrite
I am the first to admit my faults. I always crave more. Perhaps it is the American in me. For me, ‘enough’ is never ‘enough’ for me. And also, when I accrue a lot of gear and stuff, it is never ‘too much’ for me either.
I’ve accumulated a lot of gear and cameras over the year. With more gear, I got more stress. More stuff to carry, maintain, and upgrade. I actually found less stress and more tranquility in my life owning fewer cameras. Slowly but surely, I started to give away my cameras, lenses, and equipment. And the less I owned, the lighter I felt. It helped me feel liberated. I was no longer a slave to my gear. My gear became my slave.
6. Happiness is subtractive
I am pretty convinced at this point that happiness is mostly subtractive. Happiness is subtracting from your desires, subtracting from your anxieties, subtracting from your frustrations, and subtracting from your envy of others.
I’ve found a lot more personal wealth in my photography by being content with the gear I already have. I’ve found more wealth being content with the followers I already have, rather than wanting more.
I feel richer as a photographer knowing that I don’t need more gear. I no longer am at mercy to fate or fortune.
By not needing more money, I can refuse certain work that I am not passionate about. By having no (or fewer) desires, I have more personal liberty in my life.
7. I feel rich
I feel rich and wealthy. There are a million photographers with a million more followers than me. There are a million photographers who have more money than me, more fame, and prestige.
Yet at this moment, as I type these words, I have (finally) found (some) contentment in my life. I got my Ricoh GR, my beautiful wife, and the privilege of writing on this blog, sharing my thoughts, insights, and experiences.
I don’t mean to write this as a criticism of you or anyone else. I am just sharing with you personal remedies which have helped me overcome my G.A.S. (Gear acquisition syndrome) to find more creativity and happiness in my life.
Remember, the quickest way to become ‘rich’ is to not desire anything. And if you no longer have any desire in your photography, you are the richest photographer out there.
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