Why authentic photography?
The word “authentic” comes from the Ancient Greek, “autos”, which literally means “self”.
To shoot authentic photos means to shoot yourself.
1. BOXING GYM: Gallo Boxing
Take photos to fulfill your own personal curiosity!
Shoot what interests yourself. Shoot what you’re curious about — things you are curious to learn more about. This means:
What activities, social circles, or groups am I interested in — and can I photograph it?
For example, I’ve always been interested in boxing– and thought to myself:
I wonder if I could do a photography project that documented boxing.
Thus, when living in East Lansing, Michigan — I found a boxing gym called ‘Gallo Boxing’ in Lansing, and photographed a mini-project there, and also recorded some videos on my GoPro on my RICOH GR II.
All I did was this:
I showed up, and asked if it was cool for me to make some photographs around the gym. They said ok!
Which means this:
If you’re interested in doing a photo project somewhere– you can just ask!
I ended up making lots of interesting photos, and it was better because I was personally interested and invested in what I was photographing.
- Talk with your subjects and interact with them. Ask them leading questions, and learn more about them, their personal lives– and their motivations.
- Try to shoot more candid ‘behind the scenes’ videos. Follow them around, and sometimes be more “ninja” — like a fly-on-the-wall. The more you hang around and shoot photos, the more people ignore you.
- Go back. Try to visit as often as you can, and make photos on different days. You will catch people in different moods and situations.
Some behind the scenes videos:
2. POWERLIFTING GYM: Team Tufunga
One of my passions in life is powerlifting. Specifically — very heavy deadlifts.
When I spent a lot of time living in Berkeley (not traveling, and not shooting as many photos as I would have liked) I wondered to myself:
I wonder if I can photograph my passion of powerlifting?
I then started to bring my RICOH GR II to the gym everyday. And I started to chat with my fellow powerlifters– built relationships and friendships with them, and asked to shoot some photos of them. They loved the attention!
Which is cool– because what ended up happening was this:
I made closer bonds with the people at the gym.
I felt like part of a community. And everyone got to know me as the ‘photographer’– which was a cool title to have.
Thus the morale of the story is this:
Don’t be shy with your camera. Instead, see your camera as a privilege to enter the lives of others.
3. Document your own life: SAIGON
Try to make artful photos of your everyday life.
That means, photograph your loved ones, travels, and everyday life! Always have your camera in your bag, wrist, or shoulder, or neck– and photograph anything and everything which interests you!
For example, these photos are all from 2014 in Saigon. It was my first time there– and I learned a lot. Now looking back at these photos, I re-sparked a lot of my favorable memories. I am really glad I made these photos.
And this is the lesson:
You won’t always appreciate the things you are photographing while you’re in the present moment– but there is a high likelihood you will appreciate looking at these photos in the future!
I also used photography as a tool of understanding. I started to photograph things in Saigon to better understand Vietnamese culture– and also foreign influence.
For example, Korean culture (plastic surgery) on Vietnam. Now thinking about it– Korean culture (pop music, fashion, food) is penetrating Vietnam even deeper.
Also it was nice to explore the streets of Vietnam, and just chat with the kids, and to interact with the people!
I also remember when I first started to learn Vietnamese in 2014 (I’m pseudo-fluent now– I can talk Vietnamese with taxi drivers and joke around).
It is nice to be able to look at old photos and think about the progress or advancement you’ve made from back then, until now (present day).
Deleting my Instagram was probably the best thing I’ve done for my photographic motivation and output. Why? I am really starting to become more selfish and self-focused in my photography, which has helped me shoot more for auto-telic (intrinsic) reasons, and really pursuing photographic projects or photos which interest me.
Once again friend– remember, ‘authenticity’ in your photography is dictated by you– not others. Nobody else can ever tell you:
“Your photos are not authentic.”
Nobody can judge you but yourself. Nobody knows your life experiences, your internal mind, or your internal motivations.
Have fun with your photography, and never stop shooting!