Dear friend,

There is only one you. So why waste time, resources, and energy trying to be someone else?

You are you.

As a photographer, artist, and human being– you are one of a kind. There is nobody in the world with the same life experiences as you, the same social relationships, or the same perspective/world-view as you.

Have the courage to define yourself. Define your personal goals in life, what you consider your supreme/epic massive life’s task, and who you think you are.

As Cindy told me,

“If you don’t define yourself, someone else will define you for you.”

How to define yourself

How should you define yourself?

My suggestion:

Don’t worry about what others will think of you, whether others will think you are bragging, or whether others will think you’re not being “humble.”

Be brutally honest with yourself — don’t censor yourself. Proclaim what you’re awesome at, what your strengths are, and and you personally define as important in your own life.

For example, I would define myself as a philosopher-artist. A philosopher because I am hungry for wisdom, and one of my life’s passion is to discover more truths on how to be happier in life, and how to live a more fulfilling/adventurous/brave life.

I would define myself as an artist because I have a passion for making visual images– through photography, digitally drawing on my iPad, and also through music (I love hip hop music, and like to also make my own beats).

Don’t worry if others will think you are pretentious

You do not have sufficient freedom levels to view this video. Support free software and upgrade.

It has always been considered “pretentious” to be hungry for wisdom/knowledge/truth. Thus the early philosophers called themselves “philosophers”, because it was a more humble way of saying that they loved truth (philo: love, sophia: truth).

You do not have sufficient freedom levels to view this video. Support free software and upgrade.

Also defining yourself as an “artist” is generally seen as pretentious. Why? Because you are differentiating yourself from others. Also most people define themselves by their jobs or professions, thus when they hear someone else define someone else by another category, it makes them uncomfortable.

In other words,

Other people want you to conform to the herd/norm/socially-accepted.

What is pretentiousness?

Red selfie shadow. Uji / Kyoto, 2018

Upon doing some research, the word “pretentious” comes from the Latin “praetensus”, which means “false or hypocritical profession.”

Osaka graffiti, 2018

Thus, we tend to hate on “hipsters” or “hippies” who we consider living a “false” lifestyle or life — or somehow being hypocritical. In today’s world, we usually see someone who is “pretentious” as claiming that they are “superior” than others, in an “unwarranted” way (through clothing, lifestyle, wealth).

Ryokan. Uji / Kyoto, 2018 #cindyproject

But, if you are living a life true to yourself, you aren’t being pretentious. You are just being you, and “doing you“.

If you pursue your own passion and vision in life, there will always be someone who will hate on you. Why? Because “haters” feel frustrated when they see others pursuing their individual passion. Haters want to also follow their passion in life, but perhaps they’ve been discouraged by others. Thus they are like crabs in a bucket: when one crab tries to escape, they try to drag these ambitious crabs down to be stuck with them.

Define yourself by your activity

For myself, I think it is best to define yourself according to your passion, your activities, and what you like doing. Not defining yourself according to what your job is, your labor to make a living, etc. This is great because it allows you to hold down a job as a librarian or barista, but not define yourself according to your labor.

It would have been foolish if Einstein defined himself as a clerk at the patent office — he was certainly a scientist and curious mind. However, he didn’t really care how he paid the rent, he just held down a job that had the least amount of mental stress, so he could reserve his brain-power to do thought experiments and discover secrets of the universe.

Shadow selfie, small box. Uji, 2018

The philosopher Spinoza paid his living expenses by being a lens-maker. The photographer Vivian Maier was a nanny, yet pursued her passion of photography even while she was working — taking the kids on adventures, and taking photos along the way.

Define yourself as a photographer (even if you might not make money from it)

Thus, if your passion is photography, feel free to define yourself as a photographer. Don’t feel forced to define yourself by your job/occupation.

For example, I love my friend Jeroen Helmink who (when he introduces himself) says:

Hi, my name is Jeroen, and I am a photographer. And I work in Mergers and Acquisitions on the side.

That is awesome.

Don’t let money define you

One of the silly things is that people feel that if you are able to profitably monetize your passion, you are somehow more “legitimate” or “successful”.

For example, if you tell others that you are a photographer, most people will often ask:

“Oh, do you make a full-time living from your photography?” or, “Do you make money from your photography?”

The problem of modern life: we define “success” whether you’re about to make money from your art.

But this is silly, because Vincent Van Gogh never made a penny when he was alive (and prolific) as a painter. He only achieved “fame” and monetary “success” after he died. Now does that make his work any less legitimate? No. It was simply unfortunate that other people who were alive during the time he was alive didn’t appreciate his work.

Where being a good marketer helps.

Often the greatest artists are the ones who are able to successfully “educate” art critics that their work is good, for example like what the Greek tragician Euripedes did in ancient Greece. Or how Picasso super-imposed his style as legitimate upon the contemporary art critics of his time.

But this requires entrepreneurial skill, and a little cleverness — which not all artists have.


Sorry getting a bit off-topic again.

To conclude, define yourself. Define your own style in photography, your own unique voice, and define your own personal goals and tasks in life.

Take control of your steering wheel in life, or someone else will.


Photography Entrepreneurship 101


How to Succeed as a Photography Entrepreneur

The Modern Photographer: Tips, Strategies, and Tactics to Thrive as a Visual Artist in the Digital Age

Marketing, Branding, Entrepreneurship Principles For Success

MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER is your new philosophical and practical primer to succeed as a modern photographer in today’s digital world.


How to Monetize Your Photography

Why Become a Photography Entrepreneur?

Take control of your own photographic destiny:

  1. Photography Startup Manual
  3. On Risk Taking and Entrepreneurship


Photography Entrepreneurship Articles



Table of Contents

Learn how to make a living from your passion:

Photography Business 101

How to Make Money with Photography


Photography Marketing 101


How to Hustle.

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

Photography Blogging

How to Teach Photography

Social Media

How to Save Money