What If You Deleted All Your Photos and Started Again From Scratch?

Paris, 2015
Paris, 2015

I recently deleted all the photos on my Instagram, unfollowed everyone, and started from scratch.


I think every once in a while, it is a good practice to “purge” yourself of your past, and to start with a blank slate (the French call it ‘carte blanche’ — a blank sheet of paper).

The idea was mostly inspired by my friend Josh White, who (about a year ago) purged all of his photos. He threw away all the film photos that didn’t mean anything to him. He deleted over 90% of his digital photos.

Why did he do it?

It helped him start over, and to feel refreshed. To not feel held back with his past. To become re-born.

Why are we attached to the past?

Provincetown, 2015
Provincetown, 2015

My problem is that I overly-attach myself to the past. I attach my ego to my past self, my past experiences, and my past photos.

However I know that if I really want to grow, I need to let go of the past. I need to think about the future and the present, and not let the past hold me back.

Why is it that we define ourselves so much from the past? I think it is because the future is scary and uncertain. The past seems stable, and safe. Nobody knows what will happen to him/her tomorrow.

Purge your social media feed

Downtown LA, 2015
Downtown LA, 2015

One of the benefits of deleting all my photos from social media and starting from scratch is that it gave me a valuable opportunity to look at my archive of photos and ask myself, “Which of these photos are truly important to me?” Moving forward— I plan on re-uploading some old photos — photos that are truly meaningful to me, and special to me.

Everyday I am trying to learn and re-learn social media. I love social media because it gives me an opportunity to connect with people from all around the world. I hate social media because I often get into a treadmill of uploading photos for the sake of uploading photos (I get afraid that people will forget about me if I don’t upload and update my channels regularly).

Do you want to feel liberated?

Downtown LA, 2015
Downtown LA, 2015

If you want to feel liberated and re-ignite your passion for photography, I recommend doing a “purge” and starting from scratch.

For example, you can start off just by marking all your photos on Flickr to “private.” This way, the public won’t see all your old photos, but you still have an archive of your old photos. You will lose all your “favorites”— but this has made me feel more liberated than sad.

For your Instagram, I suggest the following” un-follow everyone you currently follow, and delete all the photos from your stream. Then start to re-upload all the photos that are meaningful to you, and start to re-follow those you really want to follow.

I’m not telling you to delete all the photos you’ve ever shot on your hard drive. But tidying up your archives and hard drives can feel refreshing and uplifting. Consider it like a “spring cleaning” except for your images.

What is the best tool for a photographer?

Tokyo, 2011
Tokyo, 2011

Moving forward, I plan on deleting more of my photos. I want to only keep photos that bring me personal joy and happiness. If a photo is “okay” or a “maybe” photo — it doesn’t deserve to exist in digital bits or in the world.

My friend the photographer Richard Bram says, “The best tool a photographer can use is his trash can.” I couldn’t agree more.