I’m a photography slave.

Why I’m a photography slave

Busan, 2014

I’m a slave to my passion. I cannot not photograph something that excites me. If I see something that I want to photograph and I don’t photograph it, I feel like I get “visual blue balls”.

I’m a slave to wanting new gear. I’m a slave to thinking that if I just bought that new camera, lens, or equipment– I would unleash my creativity. Very rarely do I consider the thought that perhaps my constraints are the source of my creativity.

Seoul, 2014

I am a slave to the city where I live, and where I would like to live. I always think, if I only lived in NYC or SF, I could finally flourish creatively as an artist, and surround myself with other creative folks, who will uplift me. Very rarely do I consider, perhaps I should be the one uplifting and motivating others– rather than seeking others to uplift or motivate me.

My mom at the site of her childhood home in Busan

I am a slave to social media. I want more likes, followers, and external affirmation. I think these little red hearts are a form of valuable currency. Very rarely do I consider: “likes” aren’t as valuable as money. I’d rather have $10,000 USD than 10,000 likes or followers.

The positives and negatives of photography slavery

Busan, 2014

Is it bad to be a photography slave?

It depends.

For myself, I believe it is bad to be a slave to camera brands. To call yourself a “Leica photographer”, a “Fujifilm ambassador”, a “Sony representative”, or Canon/Nikon/Pentaxian/Olympus/Hasselblad, whatever photographer– is like you branding yourself like a slave (remember that slave owners used to dip their metal “branding tools” into the fire, and then apply it to the skin of their slaves, to “brand” their property?)

Busan, 2014

So in some ways, if you “brand” yourself as a photographer to a certain camera brand, you are a slave.

Now, being a camera brand slave has benefits. You have the protection of the camera brand, like a master. For myself, when I got support from Leica, I got help with promotion, travel, sponsorship of workshop spaces, and discounted equipment. For Fujifilm, I got free cameras, lenses, free workshop spaces, etc. from Ricoh, I got a free Pentax DSLR and Ricoh GR. From Samsung, I got a bunch of free smartphones.

Getting free shit is awesome– at first. Then you start to feel like a slave. Like you have less freedom. Because you are afraid of upsetting your master who is feeding you. If I stop using my free cameras, I am fearful that I won’t get free cameras in the future.

One day I had an awakening:

I am giving more value to camera brands, than they are giving me value.

I am rich enough to buy my own cameras and equipment. But as a dumb human being, I have a bias to liking “free” stuff. Also, as an insecure person I like the idea of having a big “brand” uplift my ego.

I therefore cast off my golden chains. I gave away all my (free) cameras to friends who I thought could use them better than myself. I made a personal pledge to myself:

To only promote cameras that I have purchased with my own money.

For example, I currently own a film Leica MP and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron ASPH lens that I bought used from Bellamy Hunt (Japan camera hunter). I bought my own Ricoh GR II from Amazon. Now ethically and morally, I feel like I have a right to my own opinion. And I also feel more free.


Also now, I’m less of a slave to social media. I no longer use Instagram (deleted it), and just auto post stuff to Facebook and Instagram. Rather, I’m trying to build up my own social media platform- the ERIC KIM FORUM (thanks to Cindy for making it).

Hue, 2017 #cindyproject

Even with camera and equipment reviews I only want to review stuff that I am genuinely interested in. Because life is short, why waste it promoting products that will get outdated in 6 months? I endeavor to make “evergreen” information– that will be as relevant 2000 years from now, as they are today, like the philosophy of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Jesus, Epictetus, Diogenes, and a few others.

How to break free

Hue, 2017 #cindyproject

Now friend, if you are reading this, I am not calling you a slave. I am only accusing my past and present self.

But my practical advice is this:

  1. Realize if you get “free” stuff from a company, you lose some of your personal freedom.
  2. Realize that having a lot of social media followers is a blessing but a curse– you become a slave to please your followers.
  3. Realize that if you use a “free” social media platform (and don’t pay for it), you are a slave. Instead, register your own website or photography blog via ( and are good hosts).

And with camera equipment and gear, just ask yourself:

Is my camera my slave, or am I the slave of my camera?


Hanoi, 2017

G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

GAS: (Gear Acquisition Syndrome): wanting to buy new cameras, because you feel like your photos aren’t good enough, because your camera isn’t good enough:

eric kim photography hanoi-0007367