Better to be obscure and misunderstood than than to be totally decipherable and easily understood.

Why enigma?

The concept of enigma is a concept I got from my buddy Christophe Wu: the basic idea is this:

Strive to become more enigmatic (dark, obscure, unknown, indecipherable) than than to be “famous”, well-known, and easily understood.


Tokyo, 2011

The word enigma comes from ancient Latin and Greek, which means “riddle, dark, obscure”.

The reason I like this idea:

Go opposite from everyone else in society. While everyone wants to get a billion Instagram followers, perhaps you’re more enigmatic by NOT having an Instagram (better to have people to wonder, ‘I wonder why he DOESN’T have an Instagram?’ than to be impressed with how many followers you have.

Why become more obscure?

Downtown LA, 2015

This is my theory:

Those who are insecure of themselves seek fame and public acclaim. Those who truly believe in themselves and self worth rather would PREFER to be obscure, dark, and enigmatic; to be an indecipherable riddle.

Thus the question is:

Do you want to become more famous, or more obscure, and why?

What makes a riddle a riddle?

Istanbul negatives with my buddy Charlie Kirk

A riddle is a concept, a story, or piece of art which is difficult to decipher, understand, and solve. Generally speaking, artists are seen as “strange” and abberant individuals in society, and thus are given license to live in a strange and different way. But still, the reason why celebrity gossip magazines are so popular is because the masses want to understand these celebrities, who we view as demigods with perfect bliss and happiness.

And this is the interesting thing:

  1. Unknown average citizens desire to become famous celebrities.
  2. Famous celebrities desire privacy and to be more obscure and hidden.

Perhaps privacy is important, or at least having the ability not to be harassed and noticed all the time. So perhaps there is an upside to being ignored and NOT noticed. I would hate if I lost the ability to go to a coffee shop and do uninterrupted work without having hundreds of fans always wanting to do selfies with me. Or not even being able to leave my house, walk around the block in peace and quiet.

Enigmatic photos

Hollywood, 2011
Hollywood, 2011

I generally think that an enigmatic photo is a photograph that gives us more questions than offers solutions or answers. For example:

  1. Photos that make you wonder: “How did the photographer make that photo without getting beat up?”
  2. Photos that you cannot tell what is going on; photos that you have to use your brain to interpret on your own. This is perhaps why I prefer to read novels and literature than watch movies (reading a book and having to imagine the heroes on your own takes more brain power and skill).
  3. Photos that have an unusual and dark aesthetic; photos that DON’T look like typical reality.

Seek to become more enigmatic

Become more enigmatic, make more enigmatic photos and art, yet still put yourself out there (share your artwork on your own website, blog, YouTube channel).

Don’t seek for others to understand you 100%. Better to be misunderstood than to be totally and perfectly understood.

Leave yourself and your photos open to interpretation. Like a good film, make the ending ambiguous (like why did Robert Deniro smile at the end of the film “Once upon a time in New York” inside the opium den?) Or why is the top still spinning at the end of the Inception film?

Seek to become more obscure.