Why You Must Grow as a Photographer and Artist

Dear friend,

If you’re not growing in your photography, you’re dying.

Why grow?

Kyoto, 2015

Okay, so my theory: all life is about growth.

For example, trees grow. Trees suck nutrients from the soil and the sky, and try to grow to the heavens. They are insanely resilient– I’ve seen tiny plants growing from the pavement, struggling for survival. I’ve seen plants grow in the most arid of deserts. These trees, plants, and all organic matters wants to grow, become more powerful, and thrive.

Heart by Anna Annette Kim

I’ve also been reading a lot of Nietzsche recently, in his “Will of Power” philosophical book, and I agree mostly with him.

Anyways, even a Bob Dylan said:

If you’re not busy growing, you’re busy dying.

Bob Dylan inspires me, because he has alienated a lot of his fans over the years, in order to grow, evolve, and thrive. He wasn’t focused on just staying alive. If so, he would have kept doing protest songs forever. Yet, he went electric, akin to sleeping with Lucifer. Kind of like if ERIC KIM suddenly put all his content behind a paywall.

Anyways, I’m not that familiar with Bob Dylan, but I’m a total Kanye West fanboy.

Kanye West started off as a producer, meaning, he made beats for other rappers. Nobody let him rap, because in the past, producers should “only” produce the music, and let other rappers rap for them.

Kanye wanted to rap. He believed in himself, when nobody did. He hustled hard to get Jay-Z to hear his raps. Jay-Z actually said Kanye’s raps were pretty dope. Then Jay-Z, like a good gardener, helped Kanye grow.

Kanye is probably the most innovative musician of my generation. He took gangsta hip hop, and started to wear skinny jeans and pink polos and backpacks. He innovated with his 808 and heartbreak album, mostly singing auto tune. He knows he is not good singer, but he said fuck it– and made his music with the aid of a computer.

Kanye also made My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is his flawless masterpiece. But he only did it to prove he could do it.

In fact, his better work is probably “YEEZUS”– him making music that he likes. A mix of hip hop and rock music. Something I quite like too.

Vitruvian Camera by Annette Kim

Even his recent album, “The Life of Pablo”– it’s essentially a hip hop gospel album. If that’s not innovative, I don’t know what is.

Even now, Kanye is ambitious. He wants to grow. He started to do fashion, when nobody said that a black man could do it, especially a rapper. He started DONDA, and has massive ambitions to change the world for the better. He has broken out of the “rapper” box and is now becoming a mogul, like Jay-Z, who stopped wearing baggy clothes, and now instead wears clean, fitted TOM FORD suits.

The Evolution of ERIC KIM

Even for me, I have felt my growth as a photographer, human being, and artists has been (attempted to be) stunted. Others want you to stay in that little glass box. Change is scary.

Saigon, 2017

For example, I stared off shooting like Henri Cartier-Bresson, pretty IKEA photos (thanks Charlie Kirk), that offended nobody. It bored me after two years. I started to shoot like Bruce Gilden, close with a flash. I got a lot of shit. Then I moved on, shooting color like Martin Parr, then urban landscapes like William Eggleston and Lee Friedlander. Then I started to shoot street portraits, which upset people, “How dare you take photos of people with their permission! That’s not street photography!”

I kept evolving.

I stopped photographing people, and started to shoot more abstract and landscapes. Then personal photos of Cindy. Then self portraits of myself (honor thy selfie).

Even now, I don’t know what I am. I am a blogger, but I also like to write poetry. I like making photos, but I also like to make videos. I like to draw, sketch, and freestyle rap.

Minimalist bull by Picasso

This makes people feel uncomfortable. Why? Because they can’t categorize and put me in a box. And they can’t control me, or what I do.

It is scary. But fun.

I’d rather be controversial and an asshole, than boring and nice.

Grow as an artist 1% everyday.

NYC, 2015

So friend, how can you grow as a photographer and artist? Some ideas:

  1. Call yourself an artist, not photographer. Break out of that stupid little photographer box.
  2. Make more art. Make more stuff, and publish and share it more. The more you make the more you learn and grow. Make earthquakes.
  3. Nourish yourself with good art: you are what you eat. Eat only nourishing food and art. Personally, I love Picasso, Bauhaus art, Matisse, and reading the work of thinkers like Nietzsche, Voltaire, and Seneca.
London, 2015

And always ask yourself:

Did I grow today as an artist/photographer at least 1% today?

A great redwood tree takes thousands of years before it reaches the same height of a skyscraper. But the growth is steady, slow, yet relentless.

My berkeley apartment with Cindy, 2015

Never stop growing friend.



eric kim photography black and white leaves flash

Re-discover you inner-child and feel like PABLO PICASSO:

See all articles >