Photography is Visual Poetry

Dear friend,

In today’s modern world with AI, smartphone cameras, and automated cameras– what is the function of the photographer?

Why take pictures? To me, photography is visual poetry.

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Rap = Poetry

I’m currently listening to Eminem’s “Kamikaze” music album, and I had the realization:

No matter how good AI gets, you could never have an AI or a bot create original raps like Eminem.


You could never get an AI make beats as good as Dr. Dre, or make an album as good as Compton by Dr. Dre.


No matter how good AI gets, it could never create an epic (out of nothing) like Homer’s Illiad.

And for ourselves as photographers:

A computer, AI, or machine can never make pictures (as good as) humans.

Poets shall inherit the world

In the past, the greatest artist were poets. Then sculptors, and perhaps philosophers, then perhaps painters.

In today’s modern world, the painters are on top, and photographers are pretty low in the visual arts.

But recognize as a photographer, you are a “painter of light”. You use the camera as your paint-brush.

And the pictures you strive to make are visual poetry.

“A picture is a poem without words.” – Horace

Why poetry?

Even though I love photography and the visual arts, I actually get the most inspiration from music and poetry/rap. When I listen to the raps of Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, JAY-Z, I am astonished– it makes me think to myself:

These guys are God-level.

Great artists and poets make me believe in the greatness and the potential of human beings.

Human Excellence

Jaron Lanier tells the story about the “automatic tripods of Hephaestus”: Imagine pre-programmed tripods with wheels “with golden wheels that could automatically enter the assembly of the gods and again return to their residence” (Hephaestus).

In other words,

Imagine if you had Amazon Alexa on Wheels that could deliver your food to your front door.

Imagine a world where AI and machines/robots can do all the “boring stuff” for us, and us humans can focus on “creative flourishing” (eudaimonia– focusing all of our human energy and metabolism on creating great art). This what the Greeks did — they had their slaves do “all the boring stuff”, while the philosophers, poets, and artists made great art, and advances in mathematics, science, and philosophy.

So imagine a utopia where you no longer need to work to make a living. What would you do with all of your time, human energy, and focus-metabolism?

The only thing left:

Make art.

Art ain’t just paintings or pretentiousness. Art can be computer code, art can be dance, art can be digital or analogue, etc.

And to me,

Only humans can make art.

AI cannot make art. AI can use algorithms to copy visual styles; but the root will always be from humans.

Thus I think your best use of life:

Become the greatest possible artist in your lifetime.

You are a visual poet

Don’t call yourself a photographer — call yourself a visual artist, or even better: a visual poet.

Treat your pictures like mini-poems; but expressed in visual form.

And what are the best pictures? To me, I like simple and elegant photos. But that’s just my taste. Cultivate your own taste, your own style, and your own aesthetics– and pursue your own inner-truth.