Never Rust

Hanoi, 2016

We all know the feeling— when we haven’t done something for a while, we become “rusty.”

How do we prevent ourselves from rusting, from staying fresh, and new?

Keep greasing the wheel

If you don’t continue to grease a wheel, a joint, or a hub— it will eventually collect dirt, grime, and stop spinning.

In photography, I’ve felt the most inspired while I’m shooting. In the past, I used to have to wait for inspiration before I shot. But now, I just go on walks with my camera (in-hand), and whenever I see something interesting, I just snap it. And the more I shoot, the more “inspired” I become.

Avoid rust in your photography

“The rolling stone gathers no moss.” – Pubilius Syrus

If you keep rolling, you will never gather moss.

If you keep using your tools, it will never become rusty.

If you keep shooting, you will never become rusty as a photographer.

Do you wake up everyday?

One of my biggest inspirations in photography is Daido Moriyama — a photographer who has stayed prolific for ~50 years.

I have a friend who recently met him, and asked him — how do you stay inspired throughout all these years?

Daido Moriyama answered and said something like, “Do you wake up, and live everyday?” My friend answered “Yes.” Then Daido answered,”Then why don’t you just photograph your everyday life?”

Find beauty in the ordinary

The problem I feel most of us face in photography is that we always strive to photograph the extraordinary, the exotic, and the uncommon. But I feel the way to stay prolific, and prevent rusting out in our photography is capturing our everyday lives. The everyday experiences.

Personally, I get easily bored. I get jaded. I like to visit different coffee shops. I like to entertain my palette and try our new restaurants. I like novelty, excitement, and trying different things.

Yet the problem is that when we are always trying to find variety in life, we instantly lose appreciation for the common and ordinary.

Be like a child

Now what I’m trying to do is to treat everyday like a new experience. Like I experienced it for the first time. With a “beginner’s mind” or “child’s mind.”

When I visit my favorite local coffee shop, I try to act like it is the first time I am there. I try to admire the decor, the natural light, and enjoy looking through the menu. And when I order a coffee, I try to do nothing but enjoy the coffee — and treat it like it is the first time I’m drinking it.

When I first started photography, I was so excited by it. I was amazed with my first Canon point-and-shoot digital camera, how I was able to take photos, and instantly see the photos on the LCD screen. Now I have taken it for granted, and no longer have that child-like sense of wonderment.

The same goes for my smartphone — I remember when I first got a smartphone, I was so amazed by the ability to instantly connect online, without a laggy 56k modem, and the ability to have a personal GPS in my pocket.

Rather than lamenting for what I don’t have — I need to appreciate what I do have. And appreciating things for the first time.

Practice what you want to improve

So friend, don’t let your mind, creativity, or life rust. Keep things fresh, by practicing whatever you want to improve on everyday. And do it like a child. Do it for fun. Don’t force yourself to practice everyday for the sake of it.

You don’t need to force kids to play everyday. Because to them it is fun. They play for the sake of playing.

So in your photography, photograph everyday because you enjoy it. Because it makes you curious. Because it helps you stay creative. Don’t make your photography into a chore.

And no matter how bored you are of your own city or town, try to hit the streets everyday like it were your first time. What would you find interesting, unique, or exciting?

Never die. Never rust. Never let your inner-child die.


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