Do you live to photograph, or photograph to live?
What I mean to say by that is this:
- Do you stay alive in order to photograph?
- Do you photograph in order to stay alive?
In other words:
– Is the purpose of your life to be a photographer?
– Is the purpose of your life to be a purposeful, meaningful human being, and photography is just the tool to get you there?
2. What is the purpose of photography?
For me, the purpose of photography is to live a good life. Photography helps us appreciate the beauty of everyday life. Photography helps us appreciate our loved ones (who are still alive). Photography also helps us appreciate those of our loved ones who have passed away.
For me, photography is a meditation on life and death. Or death and life. It is a remember that anything we photograph is mortal, and will eventually decay, dissolve, and die.
Photography is a reminder that the world is beautiful — that I am joyful to be alive. To never waste a minute of my day with pettiness, anger, or bullshit. To always praise being alive, with my loved ones, and my fellow human beings.
3. I used to be confused
I used to be confused— I thought the purpose of photography was to become the world’s best photographer. To acquire the best cameras, to acquire the sharpest lenses, to acquire more followers, likes, money, power, and influence. I thought this would make me happy.
But I’ve realized— happiness in life is quite simple. It isn’t a feeling— otherwise we would just be doing heroin all the time and feeling ‘happy.’ Rather, I see happiness as purposeful, and meaningful work — directed towards empowering our fellow human beings.
Therefore, I have found my purpose in life through photography. My purpose isn’t to become the best photographer. Rather, to use photography as a tool to help empower others. To use photography as a tool to conquer your fears. To use photography as a tool to express your inner-artist. To use photography as a tool for self-therapy.
4. Do you eat to live, or live to eat?
I got this idea from Socrates, who once said something like:
Do you eat to live, or live to eat?
Meaning — do you see food as something that keeps you alive, in order to do more meaningful things in life?
Is the purpose of your life to visit all the 3-dollar sign Yelp restaurants (or TripAdvisor) restaurants, travel the world, and try every flavor in the world?
I think a ‘virtuous’ life should be the prior. To see food as fuel— that keeps us alive, in order to do more virtuous work in life. This is why I no longer drink alcohol — I get hangovers (yeah, I don’t have the enzyme to process alcohol well) which detracts me from doing productive creative work. Not only that, but I don’t eat sugar (I get sugar crashes, which prevents me from being productive). I also have started to abstain from eating breakfast and lunch, in order to stay more productive through the day — and I ‘break my fast’ around 4:30-5pm, and enjoy a leisurely 2-3 hour dinner with Cindy or some friends/loved ones. But during the day, I try to devote all my energy (caffeinated energy) to do personally-meaningful work.
5. Practical tips
Philosophy is bullshit without practical ideas and practice.
- Always ask yourself: “Why am I making photos? Am I making photos to get more likes on social media, or am I making photos to make more personal-meaning in my life?”
- Reflect: Write on a piece of paper, or on your phone, laptop — whatever, “How does photography help me be happier?” Does photography help you better appreciate your loved ones— like your kids, your parents, your partner, or friends? Is it self-therapy for you? Does photography help relieve your stress, or does it add stress to your life?
- If today were your last day on earth, what would you photograph, and what would you not photograph?
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