Photography Philosophy 101

Dear friend,

Photography is philosophy. Let me expand some of my thoughts with you:

Cindy hand Ricoh

First and foremost, I’ve learned that photography is one of the best art-creating techniques that exist.

Photography means to ‘draw with light’ (or paint with light/write with light).

  • Photo: Comes from Ancient Greek (“phos”) which means ‘light’
  • Graphy: To write, scratch into, draw, sketch, paint, etc.

I think after we get beyond our basic needs, the final human use of our time, energy and human metabolism is to create art.

suit red dot

This goes according to “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” — we first need to cover our physiological needs in life.

Then eventually, we seek ‘self-actualization’ — which is essentially becoming an artist. To create your own reality, to ‘put a dent in the universe’ (in the words of Steve Jobs), and to make artwork which is inside our heart and soul.

Melbourne flash street portrait

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for your photography philosophy. There’s only genuine or in-genuine; which means, just be 100% honest with yourself and ask yourself:

“Why do I make photos?”

Share why you make photos here >

For myself, I see myself as a visual sociologist. I make photos to better understand individuals and society around me. I’m also trying to make some sort of social commentary and critique as well — when it comes to any socio-political-economic statements; like in my SUITS project or my ONLY IN AMERICA project.

What is ‘philosophy’ anyways?

Philosophy means “love of wisdom” in Ancient Greek:

  • Philo: Love
  • Sophia: Wisdom/Knowledge

So a philosopher isn’t some monk living by himself in a mountain somewhere; a philosopher is a “lover of wisdom” — someone who seeks to become wiser.

And wisdom is just ‘good judgement’.

Related to ‘sophia’ is ‘sapiens’ (as humans, we are ‘Homo sapiens’). Sapien comes from “sapiō”, which means to discern, (“discern, be capable of discerning”).

And to me, “knowledge” is to know information which can help us make more beneficial decisions in real life.

So to me, studying philosophy is to better understand why we make photos, and to inspire/motivate us to continue making photos!

Do you plan on making images until you die?

Cindy fort Bragg Ricoh gr

As a photographer, you’re an image-maker. You love making visual artwork.

But remember– you don’t need to just make photos. You can make moving pictures (video/cinema), you can make painting/illustrations/sculpture, and ultimately, you should see yourself as a ‘visual artist‘.

If you call yourself and consider yourself a ‘visual artist’ — a whole new world of opportunities will open up to you!

And to take it a step further, call yourself an ‘artist-philosopher‘.

You are both artist AND philosopher.

  • Artist: You make artwork (anything can be considered art, even peeling a potato consciously, according to Joseph Beuys)
  • Philosopher: You are seeking more wisdom, knowledge, and meaning in your photography and artwork.

Conclusion: You’re always in flux

There’s no conclusion to your photography; you’re always changing, evolving, and in a state of flux.

Give yourself permission to change! Don’t be a self-tyrant to yourself; prohibiting yourself from your own evolution.

Never stop shooting and exploring!

Photography Philosophy

Cindy with framed hands. Saigon, 2017

Photography Philosophy 101

Personal Photography Philosophy

Why do you make photos? Reflect in PHOTO JOURNAL:



Dictate your meaning and purpose in your life:

Masters of Philosophy »

Personal Philosophy »

Stoicism »

Zen Philosophy »

Life Lessons »

Learn more: Start Here >

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