I want to share why I personally photograph.
1. I photograph to make a social critique
To start, I photograph because I want to make a (positive) social impact. I have worked on projects like my SUITS book, to make a social critique on the sucker mistake many of us (myself included) make, which is:
Having more money will make us happier.
To tell you a bit about my personal history — I grew up pretty poor (my mom filed for bankruptcy, and my dad was addicted to gambling, and my dad also didn’t work). Every month, I knew that it was a real possibility that we might go homeless. Why? My mom was barely making ends meet while working full-time as a waitress, and my dad demanded that we live in an expensive house. And it didn’t help that my dad would force my mom to give him the rent money (so apparently, “he could pay it”), whereas he would go to Reno for the weekend and would gamble it away (his rationale was he was trying to “earn money” for the family).
Regardless, growing up– I always had a complicated relationship with money. I wanted money, because I wanted money to buy cool clothes, money to fix up my car (Fast and the Furious style), and I thought that having more money would make me “happier”. Ever since I was 16 I knew that money wasn’t the key to being happy– but I always thought to myself:
“Would my life be a lot better if I had more money?”
Fast-forward; when I became around 28 years old, I broke the $200,000 a year income bracket (combined income with Cindy), and this is the lesson I learned:
Having more money didn’t make me “happier”, but NOT having to always stress about paying the bills and monthly expenses is a pre-requisite to happiness.
Which meant, as long as I kept my expenses low, and wouldn’t stress about money, I would have the ability to be happy. And I would be “happy” through creation. I’m only happy when I’m making stuff; whether I’m writing, making photos, films, videos, beats, etc.
2. I photograph to make art
I also photograph to create art.
- Photo: Light
- Graph: Draw
Thus, to photograph means to draw (or sketch) with light.
A painter is an artist. A dancer is an artist. A poet is an artist. A rapper is an artist, a cook is an artist, and anyone who makes something or does something intentionally is an artist.
To me, once we human beings have enough to survive (clean water to drink, enough money to pay our rent, and enough food to eat) we don’t really “need” anything else in life. And to me, considering that our lives are short, the best use of our human metabolism is to make art!
Making art is what makes humans, human.
Animals cannot make art. Only human beings can.
3. Why make art?
I think it is simple:
Making art makes us happy.
And then the next step:
When you make art, and share you artwork– you have the ability to empower other humans!
When you look at great artwork (from others), you feel lighter, gayer, and more powerful-optimistic in life! For example, I love the work of Claude Monet— because his colors make me smile, and it also gives me inspiration for my own color photography!
4. I photograph to be more engaged in life!
To live a real life means to leave your house, take risks, talk to other humans, and act and do stuff! You cannot live a real life just plugged into a computer at home, and not do anything in “real life”.
Photography gives me the opportunity to engage more with “real life”.
For example, I don’t like being at home. I like to go out and do stuff. And when I go out and do stuff, I always bring my camera with me! Then as I am doing stuff and experiencing reality– I have my camera and I make photos. When I am making photos, I am essentially proclaiming my joy of being alive! Whenever I see something and I photograph it, I tell it:
“I think you are beautiful; I am grateful I experienced your beauty. Thank you for sharing your beauty with others.” [Click]
I like to photograph my loved ones, strangers, and myself! I photograph nature, and try to embed my emotions and soul into my pictures. I know that eventually one day I die, but perhaps– my photos can live on.
5. Why do we want to be immortal?
I think secretly we all want to be immortal (or at least not die). But rather than seeking our own personal immortality, we should seek for our pictures to become immortal, or at least live on for a long time.
Horace once said,
“I shall make [poems] that are more lasting than bronze [statues]!”
Thus we can do the same– try to make photos that will live on after we die!
6. How to make photos that last a long time
To make your photos live on– some simple ideas:
- Don’t upload your photos to Instagram or Facebook: they won’t be as “archive-able”. Instead, start your own website or blog, and upload your photos there, and get your website indexed by Google with SEO (search engine optimization) techniques.
- Make PDF e-books of your work, and share them freely with friends, family, and anyone on the internet.
- Upload your full-resolution photos and media to archive.org (and one day, people in the future will be able to access your stuff).
- Print hard-cover books; they will last longer than digital media. For example this is why I printed SUITS as a hardcover book, so the photos will live on.
- Share your work: Don’t let your photos die on your phone or hard drive.
NEVER STOP SHOOTING!
JUST SHOOT IT.