What is Your Mission in Photography and Life?

Hoi An, 2017

Dear friend,

What is your mission in photography and life?

Why are you passionate about photography?

You obviously photograph because it is a part of you. It is a part of your soul. If you didn’t have photography, you might not have a way of expressing yourself.

As for me, I started to photograph because I couldn’t draw. Photography was an outlet for my creativity.

As for my mission, my mission is to create as much ‘open source’ information pertaining to photography (and life) — to share with it openly with others, hoping to empower and uplift others.

Of course, we all have different missions in photography, and life. What is yours?

Photography is self-therapy

Perhaps your mission in photography is to cure some of your mental stress. Photography might be a way for you to release stress, anxiety, and frustration in life. I know when I used to have a 9-5 office job, I shot street photography as a form of self-therapy.

There was nothing more therapeutic than going for a walk, when work started to get stressful. I enjoyed the walk, to let my mind wander, and taking photos to make the walk more interesting.

Inspiring others with your photography

Your mission in photography might be to create beautiful images to uplift, encourage, and inspire others.

If that is the case, you want to share your photos as much as you can with others. But make it a point of only sharing your best photos— that you think others will truly love.

Don’t share for the sake of sharing. Only share your best.

Creating photographic communities

Your mission in photography might to build a community, whether online or offline.

Perhaps you can achieve your mission by starting your own photography collective; a way for you to share tips, insights, and motivation with other photographers. I feel we are stronger together, than apart.

My friend Josh White is a co-founder of a street photography called #wearethestreet – he and many other passionate street photographers have created this beautiful online community of sharing, openness, and inspiration. Not only do the members of the ‘We Are the Street’ collective share their best work, but they encourage people on Instagram to also share their best street photos with the #wearethestreet hashtag. Then they comb through the submission, and re-post the best photos.

I know for myself, I loved building local street photography communities, through arranging local meet-ups, as well as teaching workshops. My happiest moment is when I learned that a lot of local street photographers started to meet up (without me). I unfortunately don’t set up roots in one place for too long, so I like to try to spark the fire for community-building.

I also know that this blog has been a good starting-point for photographers who want to learn about street photography, or just photography as a whole. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many like-minded people (both online and offline), who share the same mission in life. To empower others, to share love, and to find more purpose and joy in life. Many of us are seeking to be more minimalist, less obsessed with gear, and more focused on making personal and meaningful photos.

Documenting history through photography

Your mission as a photographer might be to be a historian. You might be trying to document your own city or town or neighborhood— for future generations.

I know that Cindy does history as a form of story-telling, of empowering those without voices, and for also recording her personal family history. She takes photos as a way to document her loved ones, her experiences, and to share this joy with others.

Don’t count numbers

Your mission as a photographer should be a self-driven one; for your own intrinsic benefits and beliefs.

A bad mission as a photographer is to gain a million followers. That is a mission that you can’t necessarily control. You can work 24/7, and be the world’s best photographer— but whether you get a million followers or not, is something beyond your control. Not only that, but making a mission in your photography to gain a certain number of likes or followers is pointless. You must have a greater mission or purpose.

Start now

‘The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.’ – Lao Tzu

In photography and life, your mission might be grand— but you need to start with the single step.

When you take the first step, you are (more than) halfway done. You have created the path. You know what your direction and life mission is.

Many of us don’t know what our life mission is. I don’t necessarily think you need to know what your life mission is; but I know for myself, it has given me more focus, and purpose.

How to find your mission in life

Here are some tips I would give you in terms of finding your life’s mission, or photo mission, based on my personal experiences:

1. Help others:

We are born for one another. I know that I find more purpose in photography and life when I am trying to serve and help others. The more I’ve helped others, the more I’ve also helped myself.

2. Disconnect:

Another thing that has helped my photography — disconnecting from social media. Spending less time checking my Instagram comments to crowd-source my self-esteem. By disconnecting, I started to really sit down, meditate, and wonder why I made photos, why I blogged, and what my greater purpose in life was.

3. Thinking I’m going to die tonight:

Death is my best motivator. When I vividly imagine myself dying tonight, I don’t waste a single minute or hour of my day. I stay focused on doing what is truly important to myself — which is creating open-source information for others. Therefore I spend most of my time reading, writing, meditating, photographing, teaching, and sharing.

4. Discovering your #1 strength:

For me, my #1 strength is blogging. I’ve been doing it since I was 16 years old, and I can type quickly. I just did a typing test for 60 seconds, and I typed 145 words per minute, with 8 errors, for an ‘adjusted speed’ of 137 words per minute.

I spent the last 2 years really meditating what my #1 strength in life was — and how I could best create the most value for the rest of society. After a lot of reflection, I realized— it was blogging. Why blogging? Because when I write a blog post, I have the (potential) to reach millions of people. I also alternated between blogging, making YouTube videos, and teaching workshops.

Among all of these, I started to realize— blogging was my number 1 skill. Therefore, I started to try to minimize my involvements in other parts of my business. I spent less time on social media, less time traveling, less time teaching workshops, less time making YouTube videos, less time answering emails, or doing business. As a result, my purpose in life became laser-focused. And at the moment, I’m creatively flourishing in terms of blogging and being focused.

No matter who you are, you have a certain talent and skill. Your purpose in life is to discover your talent and skill. And your mission in life is to dedicate each minute of your life to share that gift with others.

5. Don’t think too big

I think it is good to have a large ambition to help others.

But it is bad to have too big of a plan, that you don’t get started.

For myself, whenever I have told myself: “I should write a photography book” I never do it.

Instead, it is easier for me to motivate myself to do something smaller— like writing a blog post.

And over time, I’ve accumulated over 2,000+ blog posts. Which is probably worth several books.

In our photography, it is hard for us to think: “I’m going to create a phenomenal photo project, that will turn into a book, and sell millions of copies.” It is easier to think: Today I’m going to go out of my apartment and take a few photos.

Each photo you take is like you taking a step on your thousand-mile journey.

Don’t over-think it. Just start now by taking the first photo.

And for following your life or photographic mission, don’t delay. Start now.


Learn more: Motivation >