"Wandering" - Prague, Czech Republic

A Photographic Existential Question: Integrating Photography, Happiness, and Sociology

"Wandering" - Prague, Czech Republic
"Wandering" - Prague, Czech Republic

“What do I want out of photography” has been a question I have been grappling with for the last few weeks. When I was still in school, I had barely any time to even practice my photography, let alone contemplate what I wanted out of it.

However now, after graduating college and having more free time than ever, I have found myself in a quite stagnant position—sort of a limbo. Having always been so busy, I didn’t know what to do with myself with all of this free time. I then started to fill up all of my free time preoccupying myself by going out and taking more photos, working more on my website and blog, as well as participating more on Flickr and my friends’ blogs. However it seems that by the end of every day, I feel unsatisfied and wanting for more.

What do I want out of photography? Money, fame, prestige? Well I’m definitely not in it for the money. I have noticed that the more my photography gets involved with money, the less that I enjoy it and it becomes more of a job than a passion for me. Is it for the fame? I doubt that I will ever be as famous as Henri-Cartier Bresson or any of the other great street photographers without being a full-blown photojournalist or anything of the sort. The prestige? Sure I love attention (as does everyone else in the world) and enjoy having my work appreciated. However, I don’t want to ever become an “elitist” of any sort, congregating with snobby photographers and self-proclaimed “artists.”

I know I want to spread my love of photography to others. I love being a teacher—especially when it comes to photography. Nothing gets me more excited than teaching the basics of photography to an eager beginner. Being one of the co-founders and the president of The Photography Club at UCLA was one of my greatest joys. I want to give the gift of photography especially to those who do not have access to it, be it social or economic reasons. Something along the lines of “Kids with Cameras,” a non-profit situated in Calcutta, India which teaches children in the red-light district photography, while providing aid and support as well.

Although being a photographer is a very individualistic practice, it is beautiful to participate in a community as well. It is impossible to say that a photographer is completely original in his or her photography. He or she will always draw inspiration from other photographers merely by looking at the photographs of others. Like what Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, bad artists steal.”

They say that money doesn’t buy happiness. To bridge this into photography, neither does the number of views, comments, favorites, or subscribers that your website or Flickr has. In real life, it is not the number of friends that one that dictates their happiness and satisfaction with life, but rather the few and powerful connections that one has with his close circle of friends. Therefore it must not be the popularity that one has with their photography which brings them satisfaction,  but the support circle that they have with their friends, family, and other fellow photographers.

A photographer that only seeks fame is doomed to be miserable. It is a never-ending quest, as there will always be a photographer more talented, popular, or skilled than oneself. This is definitely a path that all photographers should avoid at all costs.

Focusing on having a relationship with a close circle of photographers is crucial. The support that a photographer gets from others is the energy that continues to drive one another in going out and continuing their photography. A photographer that walls him or herself in without any support from others is a photographer who will have difficulty pursuing his or her art.

In writing this, it seemed that my vision has been clarified. I guess to find the true meaning of my photography, I need to do what I (as a sociologist) have always known, but lost sight of. That is to create community, teach, and share.

So who is down for a photo outing sometime?

4 thoughts on “A Photographic Existential Question: Integrating Photography, Happiness, and Sociology”

  1. Hi Eric!
    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my Bandung Streets [Photography] project blog.

    I’m returning your visit and was very much entertained by your works, especially the the Europe through my lense slide show. The street photography there is magnificent!

    I’m looking forward to reading your street photography book project and will link your website on my street photography link. I hope you can do the same (if it’s possible).

  2. I literally feel exactly the same way. Reading the article was like a mirror to what I have been thinking for a long time.

    In the article you stated,”Nothing gets me more excited than teaching the basics of photography to an eager beginner”. THAT is your answer. The rest is gravy.

    Never forget that making great street photography pictures is important from a historical perspective. For example. The street photos at the following link are from 1965 to 1988. Take a look at the cloths, street signs, styles, everything. http://www.graphicgreg.com/streetphotos/65-88/index.html

    If you want to know about life in America at any point in history (that camera existed of course) then check out the street photography from that year. It will show you what living in that time really looked like.

  3. I have a similar struggle. And I have not figured out a unifying theory to approach things without considering fame and money. I realized that these things wont bring me happiness. Yet, why am I always filled with questions on pursuing art in relation to fame and money. Yea, it would be nice to make money from selling art, procure a new lens or even upgrade my PC to expedite my work flow. But I know that cannot be the end all. Fame? Yea, I would like a little pat on the back. I enjoy it when to know I could make somebody smile because of my art. But isn’t that a form of seeking recognition and fame? Perhaps, it’s our humanity that makes us try to reconcile the immanent and the transcendent. I think Camus was right when he tried to compare our existence to the myth of Sisyphus. Sorry, I’m obviously rambling. I can’t help in commenting on your blog. Cheers.

  4. Eric… I’m glad you responded. I’m also glad that I found your blog (read your article at DPP). I think you are gracious in sharing your book to the world. Definitely looking forward to read your book. I already bookmarked you for updates. Best regards. — Rob

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