1. What is anti-photography?
In Bangkok for the 8×8 Street Photography Conference held by Monogram Asia, I saw my buddy @Oggsie wearing a shirt that said ‘Anti Photography Club.’ It gave me an idea.
I loved Nassim Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’ — things that gain from disorder.
I wondered if I could flesh out this concept– how can I put together an ‘ANTIPHOTOGRAPHY’ concept that is practical to our creativity and life?
So to start off, my apologies if none of this makes sense. I will treat this as an open-book meditation on this concept, and I am writing this to better understand some of the philosophy behind this concept.
2. What is photography?
First of all, what is ‘photography’?
I believe photography means, ‘Writing with light’ — or ‘painting with light.’
In today’s common definition, to make a photograph is to capture an image, and make it immortal on a 2-d plane.
Perhaps the opposite of a photograph would be to ‘Delete with darkness.’
3. Deleting with darkness
I am a big fan of black. All black everything. Black is good; white is bad.
I wear all black clothes. I prefer black cameras. My buddy Leonardo da Vinci taught me that starting with a blank and black canvas is the best way to create a painting. Because by nature (without light) — everything is dark.
I believe most people make the mistake of trying to add too much to their frame in photography. Rather, I think as an ‘ANTI-PHOTOGRAPHER’ we should seek to delete from the frame — rather than to add to the frame.
4. The ZEN of photography
To me, ZEN is all about stripping the superfluous. I try to practice this on a daily basis– I delete superfluous apps from my phone, and my laptop.
I try to delete negative energy. I have gone through my Flickr and Instagram and purged my feeds. On Instagram a few months ago, I deleted all the photos, and unfollowed everyone. Starting off with a blank slate was the best thing for my creativity.
When I shoot on the streets, I am like a sculptor. The world is my block of marble. And I am trying to chip away what I find unnecessary.
The reason I like to shoot close in macro mode, use black and white, and use a flash is to strip the superfluous. To subtract distractions. When I frame and make photos, I look at the edges of the frame, and remove boring things. By removing what is boring, I will be left with what is interesting.
5. Go opposite
The photo industry tells you:
Buy more megapixels. Buy more cameras. Buy more tripods. Buy more lenses. You need more bokeh.
I like to go opposite. I believe:
More megapixels, more problems. Give away cameras you don’t use. Don’t use a tripod. Sell your lenses until you have 1 camera, and 1 lens. You need less bokeh — bokeh is the lazy way to make photos.
So to be an ‘ANTI-PHOTOGRAPHER’ is to be ANTI all the bullshit the photo industry tells you.
So instead of buying more gear, subtract more gear from your life. Instead of buying gear, buy books instead.
6. Don’t travel
Also another thing I want to promote — if you want to be a better photographer, don’t think traveling will improve your photography.
Traveling is good to experience new cultures, to meet new folks, and to open your view of the world. But traveling won’t make you a better photographer.
We all think (myself included) that going to India — we will make incredible photos like Steve McCurry. But they are all cliche.
Rather, don’t travel. Stay close to home. Document your own hometown as faithfully as you can. Make photos that are unique to your own boring town. Because you know your own town the best.
7. No zoom lenses
Don’t use zoom lenses. They make you lazy photographers. Primes for life.
Instead of using a zoom lens, use your ‘foot zoom.’ It will force you to be more creative with different angles, with different perspectives, and force you to ‘work the scene.’
8. Less social media
Spend less time on social media. Print more of your photos. Hit up my buddy Brian Milo in Chicago (email@example.com) — and turn your megapixels into atoms.
Social media is nice; but we get addicted to it like crack cocaine. Consider the fact that many of these social media companies have ‘social scientists’ who are ‘behavioral scientists’ who literally build their systems to make their platforms as addictive as possible. I am not immune.
I still like to upload photos to social media, but I force myself not to look at the comments and likes. On the Mac Laptop, I use the ‘Flume‘ app ($10 in the App store), and I have uninstalled Instagram from my phone. Therefore when I am out and about, I won’t be checking my Instagram comments and likes like a crack addict.
I also installed ‘Adblock Ultimate‘ on my browsers, to use the ‘Hide Element’ tool to block distracting parts of Facebook. I also installed the ‘Newsfeed Eradicator‘ plugin to my browsers, to not get distracted.
9. Don’t call yourself a photographer
Don’t think of yourself as a photographer. Think of yourself as an artist. Better yet, a big-ass kid.
A kid doesn’t have categories for photography or art. A kid just has fun with reality– splashes different colors onto the canvas, and doesn’t need approval from nobody — not even themselves. They just play with their paints, and move onto their next masterpiece after they are done.
10. ANTIPHOTOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENTS
One thing I encourage you to do is this: follow your own voice in photography and art.
Disregard everyone else. Stay true to yourself.
Try these ideas out to become an #ANTIPHOTOGRAPHER:
1. Unfollow everyone
Unfollow everyone on Instagram, and only follow 1 person you really like. For me, I only follow Cindy (@hapticindustries). Because that is the only person I really care about in my life.
2. Delete all your photos
Don’t delete your photos from your hard drive. But go to your Instagram and spend 30 minutes-1 hour deleting all your old photos. Learn to let go. And then re-start your feed, fresh. You will feel so light, and so refreshed creatively.
3. Only share photos you like
Never ask yourself, ‘Will others like it?’ Only ask yourself, ‘Do I like this photo?’ Then only share photos that are meaningful to you.
Don’t treat yourself as a photographer. Don’t even use that label. I prefer ‘ARTIST’ as a label — it is more open and broad. You can create art through poetry, dance, theater, sculpture, drawing, painting, digital art, photography, writing and everything.
No limits no definitions.
Learn more: ART >