Peter Phan: Why Do I Take Photos?

Why do I take photos?

Seems like a simple question enough, but the simplest questions always seem to be the most complicated.

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Why does someone breathe? Why does someone feel? Why does someone eat? To fill a need?

Why do we need to fill that need? Why do we have to need?

Answering that question is similar to how the thought above works. I could tell you an answer, but I’d ask my self why that is and I’d find myself at another question.

Taking photos to me, is something that simple and that complicated, I take them because I enjoy them, I take them because I need to, I take them because they help me find a sense of place, I take them because they give me a place to express myself in a way that I feel is best to me.

In a nutshell, I guess that’s how it is for me. Taking photos to me is like speaking, I speak to communicate either to myself, or to other people.

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Communicating for me especially has been something I’ve always had trouble with, being on the spectrum, at least for myself, Often times my thoughts run faster than I can consciously control, and end up spitting out everything in my head aloud, creating an inherent honesty that has oftentimes led me to great friendships, but also alienation to others. It leads people to view me in numerous ways, inherent honesty could be found offensive, attractive, unintelligent, it all depends on how a person perceives it.

For me photographs are a way for me to communicate a simple unconscious response. It’s a place for me to breathe and live without the overreaction of effort in my attempt and effort to fit in and feel connected to others. In the act of taking a photograph in the sense of self-expression I feel connected to myself. Something that has become harder to feel as I grow older and integrate into society. School, work, socializing, are all places I have to create and behave with different characters and masks in order to be what others feel as “normal”. Putting on these persons constantly create an alienation in myself where I feel as though I’m observing life rather than living in it. With photography its okay to observe, so in the act of I get to step out of these masks and see in the eyes and voice that I have unfiltered and pressured by my environment.

In my personal philosophy stemming from my family values, I’ve always wanted to be able to look at everyone I meet with an equal eye, being able to see equal value in every environment and every person, and in most situations in life society forces us to compare and compete, being unable to see each other honestly.

I guess then maybe photography is a place where I’ve been attempting to find fulfillment and wealth in the ways that are not quantifiable or inherently monetarily valuable. Photographs are just a snap of a second, something that almost anyone can do, pull up a camera and press a button, it’s just that. It’s just that, in which is why I feel it gives the most room for one to express ones self.

The essence of the concept is so instinctual and unconscious that, it benefits from ones philosophy. What I’ve wanted most in life is to live a rich life through my experiences and relationships, the things that everyone has, and in doing so in order to take photographs it holds a direct relationship to my philosophy, and in that being so I feel as though in order to improve in photography I have to improve in my philosophy and values, which creates and endless cycle of my attempt of being the best person to myself and the people around me. It creates and endless chase of living a good life.

I get an urge to take something because it peeks my interest, what piques my interest is not something I can necessarily control, and neither can anyone. People can not force themselves to truly love or like things that they do not.

And as being so my photographs for myself, are ways for me to review what’s running through my head expressed through and image taken from my surrounding environment. An interval of time less than a second, to express things I’ve probably thought about for days, maybe years, maybe a few minutes.

See more of Peter’s photos on his website, or email him at

Learn more:

Photography Philosophy

Cindy with framed hands. Saigon, 2017

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