Artistic Freedom Over Financial Freedom

True happiness: artistic freedom, not financial freedom.

What will we do once we have “financial freedom”?

Silhouette of man, rooftop bar in Hanoi.
Silhouette of man, rooftop bar in Hanoi.

Many of us are misled — we think that true happiness will come from “financial freedom”— whatever that means.

We fantasize about having “passive income”— being able to sit on our butts, and just let the money roll in.

But — once we achieve “financial freedom”— what would we do with our time?

Financial freedom is boring

Fog. Sapa, Vietnam

We think — perhaps, I can finally pursue my hobbies, do a little traveling, eat good food, and buy some fancy toys.

But — trust me, once you get to that point — you will just be bored. And to be frank, I think boredom is probably the worst feeling in humans.

Artistic freedom is happiness

Face tattoo man, Downtown LA
Face tattoo man, Downtown LA

My suggestion: seek artistic freedom over “financial freedom”.

Artistic freedom: having the freedom to make whatever art you want.

When I lost my artistic freedom

Kid and dad and ice cream knife
Kid and dad and ice cream knife

This is what I’ve discovered:

You become an “influencer” by getting lots of followers and likes. Then, you get sponsored with free gear, cameras, phones. Then, you get some money from these companies. Then, you lose personal artistic freedom — you are afraid of losing these privileges, so you start to compromise your artistic vision, and you lose freedom of what you want to talk about.

Let me give you an example — in the past when I got free phones from Samsung, I would be afraid of losing my privilege of getting free phones. Therefore, either consciously or subconsciously — I wasn’t 100% honest with my opinion on Samsung phones. I would be afraid to say that I thought that iPhones were better. I lost control over my honest opinion.

Or when I got free cameras from Fujifilm — I would be afraid to try shooting other digital cameras — because I was afraid of losing my privilege of getting free cameras. And who can say no to free?

What do I really want?

Suit and graffiti
Suit and graffiti

Sorry, I’m getting off topic.

I currently have “financial freedom”— I have enough money to pay my living expenses, and food expenses.

But still — I’m not happy. I still feel restless.

What do I truly desire? To keep exploring, learning, and sharing what I learned. I want to keep pushing my artistic boundaries. I don’t need more money, although having more money is always beneficial — to use the money to empower my family, and help me be more generous.

Enough is never enough

Suits and can
Suits and can

I think this is a truth:

No matter how much money you have, you will never feel 100% financially secure or “free”.

I think the secret is to realize and admit that you will never feel 100% financially secure — and say, screw it — I’m gonna still live an epic life and make the most beautiful art possible!

What should I focus on?

Suit and orange graffiti
Suit and orange graffiti

If you already have enough money to pay rent, and food, and own a camera — you’re in the best possible situation.

My suggestion: focus all your energy on making the best possible pictures according to your ability, in your own city.

Suit and NYC subway
Suit and NYC subway

Don’t live a fantasy life of wishing to win the lottery, start a business and life on “passive income”, or none of that.

Make the photos you desire, now, today.

Photography Assignment ideas

Suit looking at magazine, Kyoto
Suit looking at magazine, Kyoto
  1. Shoot one square block of your house.
  2. Only shoot inside your home.
  3. Start a self-portrait series
  4. Build your own photography website or blog, and organize and edit down your portfolio.
  5. Start analyzing your own compositions, and the compositions of the masters — and internalize composition.

For more assignment ideas, pick up:


And to keep it simple,



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