Do You Photograph to Live, or Live to Photograph?


Dear friend,

A thought I had that reminded me of Socrates famous saying, “Others live to eat; I eat to live!.”

Why I make photos


For me, photography is the ultimate stimulus to help us live a more epic, fulfilling, and adventurous life. But remind yourself: ultimately the purpose of photography isn’t to make the world’s best photos, or become the world’s best photographer. The purpose is to live a more engaged, optimistic, and active-engaged life!

Photography as a stimulus to being more adventurous in life!


For example, photography encourages me to go on more adventures in life. It encourages me to get out of my apartment, and to go outdoors. It encourages me to talk to strangers, to learn more about foreign customs, in order for me to discover more “truths” in life, and to share those truths with others.

Photography as self-therapy


Photography is also one of the best forms of self-therapy, self-expression, and art-creation. We are all born as artists. All children are artists. However as we get older, we get the inner-artist beaten out of us. We are told to stop ‘wasting time’ with our crayons, and to do more “serious” stuff like studying mathematics, and taking tests. As we get older, we become more boring, and more dull. We become email-answering machines, rather than art-creating humans.

Photography to have more optimism in life/humanity!


I believe in humanity and the infinite potential of humans. We have (already) done some pretty epic shit — we’ve gone to the moon, we’ve created inter-spaceships, we’ve created the internet, and we’ve pretty much solved hunger/disease (at least in the West). Most of us aren’t worried about starving to death, freezing to death, dying of thirst, or dying from war. We also won’t be put into jail for simply being a ‘heretic’ or burnt at the stake for having differing political-social-economic-religious outlooks.

There is no right answer


Back to the initial question: Do you photograph to live, or live to photograph?

  • A) Photograph to live: You MUST make photos, because it encourages you to live more fully.
  • B) Live to photograph: Your purpose of being alive is in order to make photos.

Honestly, there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. It is just your opinion.

For people A: You use photography as a tool to live a more engaged, observant, and appreciative life.

For people B: You use photography as an artistic tool of self-expression, and you want to live as long as you can, to continue to make photo-visual-art.

I think most of us are a combination of A and B. But once again, we must reflect on why we make photos, because it will give us clarity to our artistic activity. It is of my belief that the more aware of what we do, the more we will appreciate what we do, and the more self-confidence we will have in ourselves and what we do.

To clarify,

If you know why you make photos, you will have more confidence in your own photography (you will not care what others think of what you do, but you will care why you do what you do).



To feel more optimism in your photography, I suggest the following:

  1. Start a personal photography project of your loved ones. Just like I photograph #cindyproject or photograph my mom, or my loved ones. The more personal your subject-matter, the more others can relate to it, and the more deeply your photos will affect others. Learn more: How to Take Better Photos of Your Loved Ones >
  2. Only photograph what makes you smile: Ask yourself, “If nobody else saw my photos, and only I could see my own photos– would I still shoot the photos?” Then ask yourself, “Do I want to make photos which make me feel depressed, or would I prefer to make photos that make me smile?”
  3. Use your video function to interview your loved ones, like how I interviewed my mom. It will help better immortalize your loved ones, to learn from their wisdom, and to share that wisdom with others.


Honestly, if you want to find more fulfillment and purpose in life, the best is to study philosophy; not photography.

Always ask why you make photos, why you live, and what self-appointed purpose you have given yourself in life. Then stay true, keep driving straight– and push the pedal to the metal!


Philosophy by ERIC KIM

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