eric kim street photography - the city of angels - black and white-5-nails-sweat-downtown-la

Photography is Eating the World

eric kim street photography - the city of angels - black and white-5-nails-sweat-downtown-la

In a famous essay, “Software is eating the world” — internet pioneer Marc Andreessen professed that the future of technology was software, not hardware.

I want to make a similarly bold statement — photography is eating the world.

Being here in Vietnam has been very eye-opening to me. When I came to Hanoi 2 years ago, most people I saw on the streets had “dumb phones.” Now everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone.

And every smartphone out there has a camera. So as many smartphones we have, we have cameras.

Not only that, but cameras are on everything. They are on our tablets, our laptops, our smartphones, and eventually going to be on even more things. We will all have cameras on our cars (self-driving cars, backup cameras, front-facing cameras), our glasses will have cameras— who knows, maybe even our cameras will have cameras.

Photography is empowering the world

Anyways, the point I want to bring up is that photography is taking over the world, and also empowering the world.

Millions (or perhaps billions of people) have an inner-artist. But many of us (myself included) cannot draw. Yet we want a creative outlet for our photography.

So what do we turn to? Our cameras. Specifically — our cameras on our smartphones.

The iPhone is the world’s most popular camera (at least based on Flickr uploads). The smartphone is always with us, and the easiest form of communication. We Snapchat instant photos and videos, we take snapshots of our parking spots, ourselves (selfies), places we go, interesting things we see, what we eat, and what we experience.

The camera is an amazing tool — that augments us as human beings. We now can express ourselves on a deeper level with the camera. In the past, we could only express ourselves verbally, or through writing. Now photography and the camera has allowed us to externalize our emotions, souls, and perspectives visually.

My mom is the world’s most passionate photographer

The person I know who the smartphone has empowered the most is my own mom. She was a hobbyist photographer back in the days of film, and I look back at my old childhood photos, and they were really well composed and exposed. She meticulously put my childhood photos into wonderful family albums, and I still look at them time and again.

Nowadays, she takes all her photos on her smartphone. And it has empowered her. She is an avid hiker, and backpacker. She takes photos of flowers, landscapes, or whatever she sees and experiences. And she shares them with her friends and family — directly from her phone. She uses “Kakaotalk” (the What’s App/Facebook messenger for mostly Koreans), and she is able to get instant feedback. The sharing is personal and 1:1 (kind of like Snapchat).

Photos are truth

Anyways, we are starting to externalize our emotions and thoughts in terms of photographs. The saying “Pix or it didn’t happen” is true (asking someone for photos for proof). We don’t have trust in words— either verbal or written anymore. The photograph is the ultimate form of proof.

Think about this deeper— if you went on an epic traveling vacation, and you didn’t take any photos — did you really go? If you go back home after an incredible year living abroad, yet had no photos to share with your friends or family, did you really go?

Everyone is a photographer

Photography is eating the world — meaning, photography is taking over everything.

Imagine a world where everyone has a camera with them all the time, that has phenomenal image quality (rivaling a DSLR) in their front pocket. Imagine a world where smartphones are literally free. Imagine a world where everyone has access to unlimited storage, unlimited megapixels, and unlimited internet access.

How would photography change, and how would it not change?

In the future, when everyone has a camera, and all cameras have advanced image quality — what issues as photographers will we have?

Some ideas:

  • We will still be trying to figure out how to make “better” photos
  • We will still be trying to figure out how to find more personal meaning in our photography
  • We will still try to find better forms of self-expression with photography
  • We will still try to make more beautiful photos, that are “art”
  • We will still try to get more social affirmation through our photos (either through social media, or in-person)
  • We will still try to overcome self-doubt, the fear of photographing strangers, or overcome shyness to share our images

Today is the best time to be a photographer

This is the best time in history to be a photographer. Google Photos offers unlimited and free photo backups. There are tons of free photo-editing apps available, like VSCO or Snapseed on mobile. You can buy a brand-new iPhone SE for $400, that has an amazing camera sensor (same as the iPhone 6S, which I believe is good enough for 99% of hobby photographers). The internet is practically free now (you can find a free wifi hotspot anywhere). Social media gives you a free platform to publish your photos — either on Facebook or Instagram.

So what are you waiting for in photography? You already have all the tools to be the best photographer you can.

My suggestion: seek to find more personal meaning through your photography. Shoot with your soul. Use photography as a tool as self-expression, as a way to overcome your fears, and a way to connect with others in society.

Use photography to empower you, and to empower others.


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