If You Started Photography All Over Again, What Would You Do Differently?

Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject
Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject

I like the idea of not being a slave to your past. Not to be a slave of your past history, and to burn the ashes of your past self— and to leave no trace behind.

I think one of the most liberating concepts in life is to everyday be a beginner. To always see life with a fresh pair of eyes; without prejudice, barriers, or concepts cloud your judgement or vision.

Over the years I have built up a lot of “rules” in both my personal life and my photographic life. I’ve gone through phases where I want to get rid of all my physical stuff— and other times I want to acquire more gadgets and devices to help me become more “efficient” and “productive” in life. I think that buying a new camera will help unlock my creative boundaries, and take my work to the next level. I think that traveling to a new place will help me see the world afresh; and suddenly I will become “inspired” again.

I also want to discover new “truths” in life and photography. I often go hunting in the past, to go seeking for gems and gold. Although our past forefathers have made a lot of great discoveries (which still hold a lot of truth today)— their times were inherently different.

For example, Henri Cartier-Bresson has made so many contributions to modern photography and especially street photography. He had stringent rules like:

  • No cropping
  • Only shoot with a 50mm
  • Only black-and-white
  • Composition is of upmost importance

And other rules like this (which he either imposed on himself; or on others).

Anyways, he would have never known in today’s age, most people would have an amazing camera that traveled with them everywhere they went (smartphone cameras), that there would be these revolutionary new ways of sharing images (social media), and that the world would become a profoundly different place (socio-economically/politically).

How do I stay inspired?

How do you stay fresh, inspired, and creative in today’s digital world? No, it isn’t necessarily always joining that new social media app, getting that new smartphone camera, or that new lens.

I feel the secret to always staying fresh as a photographer is to not be satisfied with your past work— to always strive to break new ground. That also means not being satisfied with what our photography forefathers have done. It means being appreciative and grateful what our photographic forefathers have done— but not being satisfied with what they did, and not trying to simply imitate what they did before. It means following our intuition— and not letting our past projects or past “styles” in photography hold us back.

Just because we have shot black-and-white photography for 10 years doesn’t mean that we should continue to shoot black-and-white. Sometimes we create this arbitrary rules on ourselves which limit us creatively.

For example, just because you’re committed to film doesn’t mean you need to shoot film for the rest of your life. Just because you are an “iPhone only shooter” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use another digital device in the future. Just because you are married to a certain genre of photography shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t explore other genres of photography.

Whenever I wake up, I imagine that I was re-born. And I try my best to start fresh; to not be held back by any sort of concepts or notions I had in the past.

I like to look back at my old work and be appreciative of it. But at the same time; I want to not be a slave to my past work. I don’t want to keep shooting film or a certain way in the past just because I have discovered a certain “style.” I just want to follow my curiosity, intuition— and to always be learning (like a child).

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again

I think one of the things that causes creative lethargy is to keep doing the same thing over and over again, simply because we are used to it. We see this happen in all different avenues in life— we always order the same food at a restaurant (because we are comfortable with it), we stay in the same unsatisfying relationships (because we have gotten comfortable), and we never take risks in life (because once again, we are comfortable).

I believe that being content with mediocrity and becoming complacent is what holds us back from achieving our fullest creative potential.

But damn, it is exhausting.

I am always trying my best to “innovate” in my photography, writing, publishing, blogging— and it takes a huge mental toll on me. I go through a lot of self-doubt, frustration, anger, and restlessness. But I feel that ultimately, all of this energy needed to keep pushing the stone of progress along is what keeps me alive. If I were to simply sit in my apartment and vegetate on my couch watching Netflix; I am sure that I would die (both creatively and literally).

What is new for you today?

What excites you? What is new in the world of photography which inspires you? What are you curious about? If you started photography all over again, what would you do differently?

Don’t let your personal dogma, rules, and especially the opinions of others cloud your own inner-vision. Get rid of that grime which covers your eyes; and let your own inner-light shine.

Sunday, March 13, 2016 @ 6:15pm, loving the deep melancholic mood of the rain