Start Your Own Photography Project

Dear friend,

If you want to discover more purpose and meaning in your photography, I encourage you to start your own long-term photography project!

SUITS Print Edition Coming Soon

Photos are from my upcoming print edition of SUITS. Email Cindy at to reserve your copy (limited edition of only 30 signed copies).

First of all, work on a theme or concept you’re passionate about. As a photographer you cannot bullshit enthusiasm. I’ve discovered the more passionate you are about a project or theme, the more fun you will have, and the longer you will work on it!

Second, stay consistent with the aesthetic. I’d recommend the entire project in color or black and white. Preferably stick with the same camera and same lens (or film). For my SUITS project, it’s all shot on Kodak Portra 400 and a 35mm focal length lens (35mm Summicron ASPH on Leica MP, or Contax T3). I’ve also snuck in two photos shot on RICOH GR II (can you tell which are shot on digital?)

The reason why it’s useful to stick consistent to the same aesthetic in a project: your viewer will focus on the statement you’re trying to say as an artist, rather than get distracted by the changing look or aesthetic.

Third, don’t feel you need to be “original”. Just because somebody else has done it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it yourself!

The concept of SUITS has already been done. I stole inspiration from Lars Tunbjork Office Book (rest in peace Lars, thank you for the inspiration).

Just seek to work on a project you’re passionate about; it is permissible for many individuals to be passionate about the same topic. Just do it yourself for fun, and of course it will be unique!

Fourth, when you’re working on your book or project, take your time. I worked on SUITS from 2013-2018 (5 years or so). I didn’t rush the process, I enjoyed it! And I’m having even more fun editing the photos, laying it out in Adobe InDesign with Cindy, and printing test copies in Saigon (lay flat design).

Your project may take you a few years, but it’s all good! Don’t feel like you need to be in a rush to publish your work. Enjoy the process, and distill your photos (and marinate) them as long as possible!

Fifth, collaborate. Ask your friends, family, fellow photographers, etc for their input, ideas, and feedback. This book project for SUITS wouldn’t be possible without Cindy (concept, layout, design), Annette Kim (custom cover design), and Jennifer Nguyen (finalizing and editing).

Sixth, do both digital and print!

Not one or the other; embrace both!

I made SUITS first available as a free PDF book, now I’m working on the hardcover fold flat print book.

You can do both, don’t get trapped into binary thinking.

Seventh, don’t be overwhelmed that your project must be perfect. Perfectionism is anti-art. As Steve Jobs once said,

“Real artists ship (publish).”

Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of you printing, finalizing, or publishing your work. My suggestion is for your digital edition, get it 80% “good enough” then publish/share it online. For print, get it 90% good enough (in your own eyes) then print it (as printing is a monetary investment).

8. The sweet sweet freedom of self publishing

Eighth, self-publish by yourself. Don’t wait for a publisher to “discover” you.

Don’t get suckered by the romanticism of getting published by some big publisher. As Horace said, “Don’t get suckered by distant hopes”. (I added the suckered part).

Essentially a lot of us are playing the waiting game; keep publishing photos to Instagram, build a following, and hope one day (fingers crossed) to get an email from a big shot publisher to finally (gasp) get our own solo book deal!

But friends, the sad reality is even big named photographers often have to front their own money to get their work published!!! Yes, I have friends and know some big photographers who had to front $5,000 to $10,000 of their own money to get published! I think that’s bullshit, but that’s how the publishing industry works and hedges their risk.

And because all of us photographers are so desperate to get published and to get “recognition”, we fall for this sucker trap.

My suggestion:

Start your own publishing house, sign yourself, and print your own stuff!

This way you will have more control and freedom of your work! For example Jason Eskenazi printed “Wonderland“, which I consider one of my favorite photo books. I was shocked to read in a New York Times feature that if he wanted to reprint the book, he needed to pay $10,000 to buy the rights from the book again.

I think control over your creative work is always more valuable than a small (and short-lived) monetary gain.

As my buddy JAY Z said in his “Life of OJ” song,

Yall still accepting advances huh? Me and my niggas taking real chances, uh!

And also from JAY (I got the keys song):

Until you own yourself, you can’t be me. How we still slaves in 2016?

Own yourself, own your own material, and self publish! That’s a major key to success. #djkhaled


Don’t wait on anyone else. Take the power of publishing in your own hands, and start your own personally meaningful photography project today!



To reserve your copy of my upcoming print book, SUITS, email Cindy at

Learn more: Photography Projects 101 >