On Photographing Your Loved Ones

My Mom at the Site of Her Childhood Home, 2013

What if we photographed our loved ones as if it were their last day on earth?

How to love others more

Cindy’s mom and Cindy in Hanoi, 2017

One of the best ways I’ve found focus, more meaning, and productivity in my life is to live each day as if it were my last.

However often I lose patience, compassion, and love for my loved ones. I think this is from my own self-centeredness.

However the thought came to my mind— what if I lived my life and treated others like it were their last day on earth?

And of course as a photographer — what if I photographed my loved ones as if it were their last day on earth?

Photographing my grandma

eric kim grandma
My grandma / Seoul, 2017

We never know when our loved ones will pass away. Personally, I’ve been considering the morality of my loved ones— especially those who are older.

For example, I recently saw my grandma in Seoul. She is around 82 years old, and fortunately in good health. But still — who knows if this is the last time I will see her? She might suddenly fall ill, and pass away unexpectedly.

Therefore I had an urge to photograph her — because I wasn’t sure whether it would be the last time I would see her.

Don’t have any regrets with your loved ones

Seoul, 2017 #cindyproject
Seoul, 2017 #cindyproject

I think we make the mistake of thinking that our loved ones will live forever. We also make the mistake of thinking we will always be able to see our loved ones again.

When it comes to my friends, one thing I’ve tried to do is imagine like it were the last time I will ever see them. This prevents me from being distracted when spending time with them. I won’t talk about superfluous or stupid topics with them. I will try to dig deeper— talk about more philosophical things, like their dreams in life, what gives them purpose in life, and reflect on our cherished memories together.

If I consider that my friends might either pass away, or the time I have with them is going to be the last, I won’t check my phone while I’m talking with them. I will tell them about all their positive attributes, and why I appreciate them as a friend. Why wait until they are on their death bed (or I am on my death bed) before I share with my beloved friends what is really on my mind?


Hanoi, 2017
Hanoi, 2017

I consider myself a pretty patient person — but of course, I can lose my cool at times.

When it comes with Cindy, I try to treat each day as if it were our last day together. This helps me find patience, compassion, and more love for her.

One tip I got about married life— never go to sleep angry. Because you never know — you might go to sleep, angry or resentful of your partner and wake up to only discover they passed away in their sleep.

Therefore whenever I feel anger or resentment towards Cindy, I always try to resolve my feelings before we sleep. I try to be the best partner I can possibly be to her — massaging her jaw, reflecting on the positive parts of our day, and sharing how much I appreciate her.

Documenting my mom

My Mom / Hanoi, 2017
My Mom / Hanoi, 2017

I have documented my grandfather’s funeral a few years back, but I’m starting to realize— my mom is getting older, and she will eventually pass away one day. After Cindy, she is the second woman I love the most in my life.

I’m currently traveling with my mom, and treating this precious time together like it is the last time I will ever see her. I’m cherishing each meal we have together, our conversations, as well as our reflections about the past— and our aspirations for the future.

Not only that, but I’m trying to listen to her life wisdom — the importance of humility, the importance of constantly moving forward, and not giving up. And documenting her via photographs, to cherish my time and love for her.

Documenting Cindy

Ha Long Bay, 2017 #cindyproject

Of course, I have also been documenting Cindy with all my heart soul, each day, as if it were her last. I feel that my most important project in my life is going to be the #cindyproject — a project which I hope inspires others to document their loved ones.

The best way to motivate yourself

Hanoi, 2017

Death is often the best motivator. If you knew that you only had 6 months left to live, what would you be motivated to photograph and document?

Photograph others like it is the last time you will see them. Or photograph others like it were their last day on earth.

You can apply this to anything or anybody in life. Document your friends, family, partners, strangers you meet on the street, or even yourself. I feel this will help us have fewer regrets in our photography.

How many times have you regretted not taking a certain photograph — because of hesitation, because of fear, or because of uncertainty? Eliminate all of your future regrets in photography by considering the swift passage of time, and the fleeting moment. Whenever you even have a small inkling that a moment might be good, just photograph it.

Consider your own mortality

Taking this idea a bit further— if today were your last day alive as a photographer, what wouldn’t distract you? Or what thoughts would you not entertain?

If today were your last day on earth as a photographer, you wouldn’t desire or lust for any other new camera equipment. You wouldn’t desire to travel to some far away place. You wouldn’t desire to learn some new photography workflow. Rather, you would use your current resources, equipment, and opportunity to make the best of what you already have. You would cherish your loved ones, your own environment, and photograph it to the best of your ability.

If you photograph each day as if it were your last, how can you have any regrets in your photography?


Cindy and My Mom where My Mom’s Old House Was / Busan, 2017

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