Dear friend,

I’m currently reading Einstein’s biography by Walter Isaacson and was inspired: the best way to be innovative and a “genius” is just to be curious.

I. Einstein was a curious kid.

Einstein was like a big ass kid, with crazy hair. His genius wasn’t pure mental processing power, but his ability to play mental thought experiments, like:

What would it be like to ride on a beam of light?

He was a trouble maker, non-conformist, and liked to play.

II. My mom is my creative and curious hero.

I’m inspired by my mom. She’s the most curious person I know. When she’s curious about something, she will Google search or YouTube things for hours on end. Or she will ask a lot of questions to others.

For example, I did a yoga class with her, Cindy, and Cindy’s mom in Hanoi. We did “hatha” yoga, where breathing is emphasized. She asked a simple question:

Why is breathing so important in hatha yoga?

Funny thing is, it sounded like a dumb or child like question. But it was a very good question. The teacher was struck by the profundity of her question, and went into a very deep 10 minute explanation.

My mom had the curiosity, and courage to ask the childlike question:


III. How to be a better photographer

To be a better photographer, just be a more curious photographer.

Better yet, follow your curiosity.

I hate modern education. It stifles our inner child and inner curiosity. We are told to study boring stuff, when we would prefer to follow our own curiosity.

At this point, I just consider myself a big kid with a lot of money, time, and freedom to pursue my creative interests. I only study, research, or do things that I’m curious about.

Currently, I’m interested in physics, and how it can be applied to creativity. I studied sociology in school, and I failed my Calculus class at UCLA. If I listened to the opinion of others, they would say,

Eric, don’t study physics. You studied sociology. You can’t understand.

I just politely would ignore, and follow my own curiosity.

IV. How to be more curious in your photography

In photography, how can you be more curious?

1. No self-censorship

Kids aren’t afraid to say “dumb” or politically incorrect stuff.

For example, a kid might point at a fat person in line at the grocery store and ask:

Mommy, why is that man so fat?

For me, I like to stare at people I find interesting. As a child, you’re taught that staring is rude. But that is just a Western socialized rule. In Vietnam, it isn’t rude to stare. I love it.

I love to stare at people, because I’m curious about people. I like how people dress, their fashion, or how they present themselves. So I like to now stare at people, compliment them on their outfit, and small talk them.

For example, I’ll see a guy with a nice looking watch in a bar, and I’ll ask him:

I really like your watch design. What is it?

People like to talk about their stuff. It will open up a door, and I’ll learn a lesson on watch design.

So for myself, rather than just staring– I’ll stare then approach them, then start a conversation, by asking a question. This is a good way to ask someone to make a “street portrait” of them.

2. Don’t shoot street photography wearing expensive stuff.

When I’m wandering the streets, I like to go down mysterious alley ways. I’m really not afraid of getting robbed, because I don’t walk in public with a Rolex, or a $10,000 camera. I don’t carry much cash. If someone were to rob me, they would just gain a $600 Ricoh GR camera, and some coffee stamp cards in my wallet.

So tip: to take more risks in street photography and life, don’t travel with expensive shit. Because you’ll be more fearful of having your shit stolen. Even rich people are afraid of having their $5,000 Panerai watch stolen, and will not shoot street photography in “dangerous” neighborhoods.

Another tip: if you’re shooting in a shady neighborhood, and shady looking people stare at you, and you feel scared, wave at them and say hello. Once I was shooting in Detroit, in a shady neighborhood. A bunch of dudes stared at me, and I felt nervous. I just waved and said, “Hey guys!” They smiled back, and waved back.

Humans are like dogs, they can smell fear.

3. Listen to empowering music

Many of us don’t follow our curiosity because of fear.

To be more curious, be less fearful.

To be less fearful, empower yourself. Empower yourself by listening to “bangers” in hip hop music “DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar”, your favorite rock music (Pantera is good), by doing deadlifts, by asking an attractive stranger on a date, or by shooting more street photography.

Conclusion: Street Photography is the best.

So essentially, to be a more curious and creative photographer, shoot more street photography.