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Photography Motivation: What if There is Nothing Interesting to Photograph?

In photography we need a motivation, a spark, a DRIVE to make a photograph.

But what if there isn’t anything interesting to photograph? What if we aren’t motivated to make photos? Should we “force” ourselves to shoot, THEN find inspiration? Or should we just not make photos?

Or should we discover new ways of living in order to make photos? What is the philosophical under-pinnings of NOT being motivated to shoot?

1. Why am I more inspired to photograph when I’m in a foreign/different place?

This is true I think for most photographers:

It is hard to be motivated to photograph when you’re home, but very easy to find motivation to photograph when you’re somewhere abroad or when you’re in a foreign city.

Why is this?

My thoughts:

  1. When you live at ‘home’, you’re probably living a very predictable life. Generally speaking, predictable is boring. I think we humans have an innate desire for chaos, randomness and chance (this is why we like the randomness of gambling and perhaps the chaos and Dionysian frenzy of going to bars, parties, or the club).
  2. We are so exhausted and mentally/physically drained from our 9-5 jobs that we literally do not have the energy or willpower to make photographs. I believe that the best art requires superfluous energy, time, and focus. Also, to make art requires much physical and mental strength. If your 9-5 job is draining all of your physical and mental strength, OF COURSE you’re not going to have the energy or power to make photographic art!

Traveling and photography

Kids playing in Polanco park. Mexico City, 2019
Kids playing in Polanco park. Mexico City, 2019

Why is it that traveling inspires us to make photos? My thoughts:

  1. When traveling, your senses are heightened. Everything is new. Tons of new external stimuli (space, depth, smell, humidity, altitude, colors, air, people, cultures, music, etc). All this new external stimuli WAKES US UP!
  2. When we travel, we are generally not working. Thus, we walk around more, explore more, see more, eat more, think more, witness more. Essentially we open up more ‘photographic optionality’, and we witness more ‘photographic moments’, because we devote MORE TIME to walking around and making photos, instead of being stuck in some soul-sucking office.

Is the goal to indefinitely travel to make photos?

This is the philosophical question I have grappled with for a long time:

If I am more inspired to make photos while I’m traveling, should the goal to be indefinitely traveling, in order to perpetually make new photos?

It seems this has been the strategy of Josef Koudelka (he’s in his 80’s, and has never stayed in a single spot for more than 3 months). Apparently this keeps him young, inspired, and always shooting.

The nomadic photographer

Cindy and myself selfie. Saigon hotel room selfie.
Cindy and myself selfie. Saigon hotel room selfie.

For myself, I have adopted a ‘nomadic‘ life, with ‘intermittent living‘.

A quick recap of my life thus far:

  • Born 1988 in San Francisco
  • Raised in Alameda, California (childhood to around age 10)
  • Golden years spent in Bayside, Queens (age 10-12)
  • Back to Cali: Living in Alameda, California from 7th grade, 8th grade (Middle school)
  • Moving to Castro Valley (‘better school’): 9th grade-12th grade (high school)
  • College: UCLA (initially Biology to become a doctor like a ‘good Asian kid’, but switching to Sociology when I realized I hated math and science, at least at the academic level). Then studying Sociology with great zeal, co-founded Photography Club at UCLA, discovering Street Photography as my passion, starting this blog (2010) for fun.
Hey guys, so this is going to be my new blog in which I will post photos, essays, tips, and insights about street photography and more. Don’t worry– will still be alive and well. Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think of the new look and what suggestions you think I could incorporate! (2010, June 21st, first blog post).
  • Getting full-time job at Demand Media as Online Community manager for Company IPO’s after a year of working there, and I lose my job (stock crashes).
  • In 2011 I decide to try to pursue this street photography thing for a living (new start for ERIC KIM).
  • 2011-2019 (8 years): Self-employed, traveling, teaching workshops, etc.
  • 2011-2012: Living in LA
  • 2012-2013: Living in East Lansing, Michigan
  • 2013-2015: Living in Berkeley
  • 2016-2017: Got married, then start of nomadic living in Hanoi and Saigon
  • 2017-2018: Continued nomadic living abroad (Vietnam, Japan [Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo], Mexico City, Marseille, Europe, East Coast, Orange County, etc.
  • 2019-onwards: Providence, Rhode Island


Sorry I got off-point (as always).

To re-sum, to re-spark your motivation to make photos:

  1. Travel intermittently: When you have the chance, travel. Traveling is never bad for your photography.
  2. Use a RICOH GR III as your ‘everyday carry’ camera. Or just shoot with iPhone Pro. Shoot JPEG, use filters/presets, and just photograph ANYTHING of your daily eye which interests you! Shoot selfies, photograph your food, photograph sunsets, photograph your friends, family, strangers, trees — anything and everything!
  3. When in doubt, go for a walk with your camera around your neck (ERIC KIM NECK STRAP MARK II), or in your pocket (ERIC KIM WRIST STRAP MARK II).
  4. Photograph when you’re walking, moving. Don’t care for technical perfection. Blurry, out of focus, and random is good!



Photography Motivation


Just shoot it:

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