Create Against the Past

eric kim medusa

eric kim medusa

I have a problem, I am easily envious of my contemporary peers.

1. My envy

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Everywhere I look, there is someone more successful than me. Someone with more likes on Instagram, someone with more exhibitions, someone with more books, more cameras, and more success.

What has helped me fend off this envy is taking a break from social media. Not looking at the work of others, and focusing on my own work.

2. I’m not envious of dead photographers

St. Andrew Kim / Oakland, 2015

Yet, I still want to gain inspiration from the past, and from other artists.

How can I find inspiration, yet not be envious?

I think I found a solution that works for me: compete against (dead) photographers and artists from the past— not against any contemporary photographers or artists.

Some inspirations:

3. Aim high

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“When I think of competition it’s like I try to create against the past. I think about Michelangelo, Picasso, the pyramids. That’s the reason why I put 5,000 hours into a song like ‘Power.’” – Kanye West

My photography heroes include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, and Richard Avedon.

  • HCB gave me my love for composition, and Zen minimalism.
  • Koudelka gave me a heart for photographing subjects like they were family.
  • Avedon taught me the power of a white background, and focusing on faces, emotions, and capturing someone’s soul.

Yet I don’t want to just become the slaves of my masters. I want them to be my guides, and find inspiration from them.

But perhaps what I want to do is to take it to the next level. To take a leap over them. To gain assistance from them, but to use their genius, work, and creativity — to boost me even higher.

4. The sky is the limit

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I know for me, I like to have big goals for myself. The higher I set my goals, the higher I achieve.

I know that I can never reach the heavens. I will never become a master. But, just because I cannot reach the summit, doesn’t mean that I won’t try.

Everyday, I try to push myself 25% beyond my comfort zone. I try to become 25% more creative, to have 25% less fear, and to be 25% more prolific.

As of late, I’m putting no more boundaries or limits on myself. I want to take my photography, art, and ideas to the next level.

5. Gratitude

eric kim street photography beach

That means only competing against the masters from the past. After all, I can’t feel envy of artists and photographers who are already dead. Rather, I gain assistance, guidance, and support from them. And I never feel like I’m competing against them (in a negative way).

I thank all the dead masters of photography for helping pave the path for me. I also thank all my contemporary friends and photographers for inspiring me.

But I know I’m destined for something greater. I’m destined to become the best version of myself. And I need to keep pushing myself to the highest summit.

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How to take your art to the next level

Some practical ideas you can add to your art, to take your work to the next level:

1. Disregard what others say:

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If you want to take your art to the next level, you need a healthy amount of ignorance from the feedback of others. Whenever people give you feedback, smile, say thank you, and move on — and keep doing what you’re doing.

2. Cross-pollinate:

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I’m currently trying to fuse lots of different forms of art I’m inspired by. Hip hop music, minimalism, Zen aesthetics, photography, modernism, sculpture, ancient Roman poetry.

To ‘cross-pollinate’ in art means to mix different forms of inspiration. Like a bee, you are going from one flower to another. But your combination of these different pollen from different flowers, renders you a unique honey. And that honey is unique to you.

3. Hit publish:

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The only way to be more ‘creative’ as an artist or photographer is to create more. To hit publish. To have the courage to put your art into the world.

Publish everything you’re proud of. Don’t fear negative criticism. Just do it.



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