Howard Zinn’s Optimism

This will be a rare post that is not directly related to photography.  There are many notes worthy news this week.  Apple released the much anticipated iPad.  President Obama gave his first State of the Union address.  However, the one that touched me the deepest was the passing of Howard Zinn (1922-2010). 

If history is written by winners, Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is THE history book written from the oppressed prospective.  I first learnt about Howard Zinn from a Democracy Now!’s interview a few years ago.  During the Bush years, his view that “all wars were bad” and “no authority can be trusted” spoke to me.  Throughout the years, his appearances in various media were always delightful.  Democracy Now!’s annual July 4th airings of the dramatic reading of his “Voices of a People’s History of the United States” were both empowering and enjoyable.  Many scholars and activists have similar ideals.  Yet, I was drawn to him.  Only after his passing did I realized that what I admire him the most is his optimism.  For decades, Zinn unapologetically sided with the oppressed: the peace activists, African-Americans, women, etc.  However, facing impossible odds against the establishments, he never showed any sign of anger and sadness in his interviews.  Instead, he was just delighted to voice his analyses and opinions.  He was both approachable and stubborn.  Listening to his claim voice, I felt like he was petting our backs and was telling us that things would come around.

The great author, activist, professor will be missed.

List of stories related to Howard Zinn from Democracy Now!, New York Times obituary, New York Times’s Bob Herbert’s OP-ED, Amazon’s Howard Zinn page, Noam Chomsky's tribute


Work with Your Limits, Keep Photographing

My interest in photography started in Acadia national park.  I was working way too many hours at the time.  To take a break, I decided to go on a hiking trip on my own.  I borrowed my brother’s point-and-shoot camera for the trip.  Acadia was amazing and I took hundreds of pictures.  A year later, I brought my first DSLR. 

There are many limits for learning photography while working full time.  For someone who got into photography because of nature, it is very difficult and expensive to go on photographic trips in national parks.  To find nature in the city, I photographed in Central Park and botanical gardens.  Of course, you just can’t find the kind of landscape for photography in New York.  For some time, I felt that there is no interesting subject.  However, there are New York based photographers.  I realized that there must be interesting subjects around.  As I continued to photograph, I continued to find subjects that I like.  As I find them, I try to expend on those subjects.  Gradually, I find many interesting things to photograph. 

If I just stop photographing, I would never find any interesting subject and my skill would have never improved.

So, keep photographing.


Post Holiday Inertia

Early this year, Brooks Jensen from LensWork talked about his post holiday inertia in his LensWork podcast #586.  Basically, he was describing his process of being productive again after taking some time off during the holiday.  After I listened to it, I realized that our holiday experiences were very different.  

Working a full time job, the holiday actually allowed me to be more productive as a photographer.  I had my share of family time during the holiday as well.  However, not having to be in the office, I had more time to photograph.  I made 5 little day trips to photograph during the break.  I spent some time thinking about my long term goal as a photographer.  I putted up this website to fulfill my last year’s resolution.  I signed up for Kelby Training and went through a few online trainings already.  More importantly, I was able to sharpen my photographic eyes during those 5 trips.

Normally, with the holiday over, I would go back to a less or not productive period.  My schedule would be filled up slowly.  I would just let me photographs sit in my hard drive for weeks.  I would be luckily to photograph a month later.  However, for this year, I decided to modify my flow during this kind of periods.  While I can’t photograph as often as I would like, lots of work has to be done after each photographic trip.  I decided to put some serious efforts into post-processing during my working days.  It might take me a much longer, but I know this is very important for me to grow as a photographer.


Approaching Photography as a Process

Okay, I will come out and say it, the only goal I have relating to photography is to get better at it. There is no specific ultimate goal that I want to achieve. I love my day job, so I am not looking to be a professional photographer. I have no problem making ends meet, so selling my works for huge profit is far from my mind.

I love the learning process. Looking at some of the famous works by the masters, I know it would be years, if ever, before I can gain their eyes and skills. I don’t even know the path to get there. However, the process of getting there excites me.

I have slowly moved away from making single exposures. Instead, I am creating series of pictures to explore particular topics. While working full time, my chance of traveling to photograph is limited. Yet, the process of exploring different aspects of the same subjects repeatedly interests me.

Ultimately, to me, photography represents a medium for engaging in the process of creating art. It is this process that excites me. Creating good pictures is a way to verify the progress, but it’s almost just the by-produce.


So Here I am

So here I am. In many ways, this website is made to strengthen my commitment to photography. I have been photographing on and off for a few years now. Working a full time job, I have been trying to photograph whenever possible. However, given my day time job, I have not spent much time processing the images afterward. Without processing the images to the final stage, it becomes harder and harder to make the right judgment in the field. Without spending enough time with the images after they are taken, my photographic eye has also stopped evolving. While taking pictures is definitely very fulfilling, I find myself photographing the same images over and over again without knowing what I like about it and how to improve it. This halt is probably the worst enemy to art creation. To this end, I decided to start this website. In the upcoming months, I am hoping to process and publish a few series of my images here. Also, as an aspiring photographer, I am hoping sharing my prospective of my journey.

So, stay tuned.

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