Dear friend,

I want to outline why I think photography is the best art form.

I. I’m biased.

Of course I’m preaching to the choir because I assume you’re a photographer.

So let us drink our own kool-aid.

First of all, to make a good photograph is very hard. As a photographer, you are an editor of reality. Real life is chaotic. We’re trying to make sense of reality, by cutting away the superfluous from our frame. We are trying to distill the essence of a scene, persona or feeling– into a single, two dimensional image.

I love film and videos, but I’m too impatient for most moving images. And not only that, but after watching a lot of science fiction movies, I’m pretty certain in the future, still images, printed photographs, will still remain.

I think painting and drawing are great. But to me, it is a more fun challenge to subtract from reality, rather than trying to create reality from a blank sheet of paper.

For me, I think a photographer is a sculptor– taking an unwanted piece of marble, and chipping away until we can find the David within. There is a probably fake story of Michelangelo who said how he made the David:

It was simple. I simply subtracted everything that wasn’t David.

When I’m making photographs, I always look at the edges of my LCD screen or viewfinder, trying to subtract elements which I think might be distracting. Also, I try to create dynamic diagonals in my photographs, making the diagonals come out of the edges.

II. Art for the masses.

I also think photography is the best art form, because it is the most democratic. Anyone and everyone is already a photographer. Your mom with her iPhone is a photographer. Your kid with an old Android smartphone is a photographer.

Painting and drawing, and other forms of art are way harder to learn. You need to do an apprenticeship for years before you can paint anything half decent.

But photography is like chess: you can learn how to play in a minute, but it will still take you a lifetime to master.

III. Make more meaningful photos, not technical photos.

I’m very optimistic for the future of photography. In America and most of the developed world, everyone has a smartphone. Which means everyone has a camera. Which means everyone is a photographer.

Tools like VSCO have empowered photographers, to make their photos actually look good.

Now, we can focus as photographers on more important things:

  • Making stronger compositions by subtracting distracting elements
  • Capturing more emotional photographs, by capturing hand gestures, body language, and eye contact.
  • Hesitating less before making a photo, to JUST SHOOT IT.

I think the automation of photography technical settings is good. I want to just:

Set it and forget it!

The iPhone is great: just one button to make a photo.

Even now on my digital Ricoh GR, I set it in P mode, center point autofocus, and auto high ISO. This means, fewer variables for me to worry about, and to just focus on making photos: the most important task of a photographer.

IV. With photography, we can find significance in everything.

The greatest thing with photography especially with Phone
Photography is that we can embed meaning into every moment of our daily lives.

We can have meaning, when waking up in the morning, and photographing the beautiful sunrise from our bedroom window.

We can make photos during our commute, feeling more connected to our fellow human beings.

We can find meaning in photographing our children, life partners, friends, and self portraits of ourselves.

V. You are an artist of everyday life.

To me, art is all about finding purpose, meaning and joy in life. Art is about having a will to live, a purpose to wake up every morning. To value life, and to appreciate life, and to live life to the fullest.

Art ain’t about making pretentious images, to impress stuffy old people at cocktail parties, while discussing wine pairings. Art is for the people. Art is for the masses. Art is for us, you, me, and your mom with her iPhone.

So if anyone ever tells you that photography isn’t art, just say, “No.” and walk away.

So friend, when in doubt,

Just shoot it.

Make photos to make meaning in your personal life.

So yes, let us be elitist photographers, and declare casually that photography is the best art form.

Be strong,

The Art of Photography

eric kim photography black and white leaves flash

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