Why You Shouldn’t Go Into Debt For Your Photography

Saigon, 2017 #cindyproject #ricohgrii

Dear friend,

Practical advice: to be happy and have creative freedom, don’t go into debt for your photography.

Debt is slavery

We can’t control that modern society is capitalist. But we can control whether we go into debt or not.

We have a choice not to buy shit we don’t need.

You have the choice not to upgrade your laptop, car, phone, camera, or lifestyle.

The secret to happiness:

Maximum freedom and no debt.

Debt makes us a slave to our jobs. To do shit we don’t wanna do.

Capitalism isn’t the enemy. Debt is.

School debt is the devil.

Don’t go into debt for school. You will end up getting a job you hate, just to pay off your debt. Rather than pursue your passion, you might get a soul-sucking office job to pay off your crushing debts.

Photography debt is the devil.

Never go into debt for your photography. Never buy a camera on a credit card or with a loan on borrowed money. I’ve made that mistake in the past.

When 19 years old in college, I took out a $5,000 USD loan to pay off my dormitory fee. Yet, I found out I actually didn’t need that money. But still, I squandered the money, like an idiot. I bought a used Canon 5D to “upgrade” my lame “crop-sensor” Canon 350D Rebel XT. I thought having a “full-frame” sensor would unlock my potential.

I then bought Canon L lenses, because it was heresy on online gear forums to use non-L lenses on full-frame Canon bodies.

Another story: after I got made redundant from my job, I literally wiped out my savings and borrowed $3,000 USD from my mom to buy a used Leica M9. I spent my life savings, ($5,000 USD) to buy the Leica M9, and used the borrowed money from my mom ($3,000 USD) for a used Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux. I genuinely thought it would be the last camera and lens I’d ever buy. I want wrong.

Even now, trust me, I’m the biggest sucker to materialism. I love to buy shit. It makes me feel good, more powerful, and more self-confident. I still do believe some tools do help us be more creative. But there are limits.

ERIC KIM is the biggest sucker.

Now, I feel like I’ve seen (some) of the light.

I genuinely prefer shooting on my $600 Ricoh GR II instead of a $7,000 digital Leica. I prefer the size, compactness, and aesthetic of the camera. The Ricoh is small, and helps me carry it with me everywhere. I end up shooting more, which brings me more joy.

Even now, I can afford to buy expensive shit, but I would prefer not to. Why? With expensive stuff, comes stress, anxiety, and worries.

For example, when I have my grandfathers 1950s Rolex Oyster on my wrist, I am paranoid to wear it in public. I’m worried someone might chop off my wrist or rob me.

When I travel, I get worried to have my film Leica MP ($3,500) and my 35f2 Summicron lens ($3,000). If I lost it, left it at a cafe, or got it stolen, I’d be out $6,500.

Even my rich friends, they don’t travel with their expensive nice stuff. Because the same thing, they’re afraid of traveling with expensive stuff, and having it stolen. They travel with their Seiko grand master watch, not their black face Rolex. They travel with their Fujifilm, not Leica.

Also with expensive cars, you are anxious that people will scratch your car. Also, maintenance is annoying and expensive. An oil change in a Lamborghini costs $3,000– and you gotta get it done every few months. And even for rich people, it sucks to spend that much money on an oil change. Like the ancient saying, “It is as painful to pull out the hair of someone with a full head of hair as with someone who is bald.”

In other words,

It is painful for rich people to use, and lose money. The same as poor people.

Rich people are the most tormented.

Another secret, the thing with gas (gear acquisition syndrome)– you will never be satisfied, and always miserable.

There is always more shit to buy and collect.

I have a friend with a closet of 300 Nike shoes. He’s still not happy or satisfied.

I have a friend with 20 Leica cameras, and 30 Leica lenses. He’s still not happy or satisfied. And because he has so much gear, it paralyzes him. He never knows what to shoot with. Versus the zen of one camera, one lens.

I have a friend with ten sports cars. He has the stress of maintaining all the cars.

My life lesson:

More stuff, more stress.

What is the solution?

I don’t got no answers for you. But for me, the zen of one camera, one lens has helped me.

As I write these words, I’m in Saigon, and all I got is the Ricoh GR II. The lens can’t be taken off (28mm). No stress. I always have the same camera and focal length. It’s small, and fits in my front pocket. Easily slips in my bag. Less worries about what to shoot with. I just shoot it.

I wear the same outfit everyday. All black. Black tshirt, black pants, black shoes. Less stress for what to wear, more focus on creating photos, poetry, videos, blog posts, or writing books.

I’ve had a long practice, that everyday I try to uninstall one app from my device, phone, iPad, laptop, whatever. I always install new shit, but I always try to uninstall superfluous applications. It has helped me focus.

With photography, I juggle color and black and white. Yet, color can be a distraction. I usually revert back to monochrome. Fewer choices, which is more focus in my shooting for emotion, composition, and soul.

With music, I like to listen to the same few albums over and over again. To me, it gets me in a zen-like flow of focus. And I appreciate the music more. I’ve uninstalled Spotify. I listen to my music offline. And I pay for the money I like, for example DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar, The Life of Pablo by Kanye, and a few Jay-Z songs.

You were born to fly.

Sorry friend, I know this got off topic.

But the takeaway point is this:

Avoid debt in life, then you’re free.

No debt, means you have more freedom to fly. Debt is a golden prison.

What if you had no debt in your photography? Where you were satisfied with your camera, lens, and digital devices?

For me, I try to be satisfied with my equipment and gear, but never be satisfied with creating new art. Fewer distractions with equipment and gear means more focus on making art that uplifts my soul.


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

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