Addition by Subtraction


The secret to happiness is more consumption... That's the motto I live by. Ever since I was 13 I've been adding to my life. Whenever I felt lonely I'd befriend more people, whenever I found myself unhappy I'd treat myself to more gifts, more cameras, more lenses. It's a never ending cycle of addition. At times, the process may be somewhat satisfying. I find great joy in researching and finding new shiny toys to purchase, I also find joy in meeting new and interesting people, but the outcome is always the same, those shiny toys aren't shiny for long, and those new friends, well, they're only interesting because their story is foreign to me.

This methodology temporarily makes me smile, I know the sense of joy isn't everlasting, yet I still tend to enforce it. It kind of reminds me of my constant reliance on energy drinks, but that's another story... Here's a better example. Just last week I was looking to buy a new street photography lens, I recently picked up the Sigma 19 for my Sony A600, by recently I mean last week. I've shot with it once, and it's solid, I couldn't ask for a more reliable street lens, however, I told myself the new Sigma 30 would be a solid addition as well, you know for those rare times when I want to capture street portraits. It's true, that lens may have added some depth to my portfolio, it gives me a slight longer focal length and the ability to stop down to f/1.4. BOKEH! But how often to I shoot street portraits? And when I do is it a predetermined decision? When  I go out and shoot I capture whatever grabs my attention, I'm never out looking for one thing. This new purchase would have put added pressure on me. Every day before I went out and I would have to make the decision, 19 or 30? 9/10 I wouldn't be able to select just one of them. This would have caused me to take both lenses with me. I know you're thinking, what's the big deal? Here's what usually happens. If I missed a moment in which the wider lens would have been more beneficial than I'd switch, as soon as the Sigma 19 is mounted then I'm sure I'd see a moment where I thought the Sigma 30 would have been more pleasing. It's a shit ton of confusion that could be avoided by simply subtracting the Sigma 30 from my bag, or just not buying it at all.

Related: One Camera, One Lens...

I hope that made sense... Just in case that example didn't 100% resonate with you then let me give you another one. Recently I've been following the Tim Ferriss Show, for those of you who haven't heard of him, please do me a favor and check the show out, you won't regret it. In one of his previous shows he stated, and I'm paraphrasing, that if you own a possession that is less than a 7 to you, but worth a 10 to someone else, then give it away.

Right now I have a Fujifilm Instax laying on my bookshelf, I haven't used in it 3 months. When I initially purchased it I bought a shit ton of Instax film... Chances are I'm not buying the film again, it's too expensive and... yeah it' expensive. Every now and then I'll see it and say, "perhaps I'll do a project", then I waste 30 minutes to an hour trying to figure out exactly what project best suits my needs... I never come up with a project idea, yet I always tell myself that at some point I will, so here it lays. I didn't really notice this until gathering the information from Tim Ferris. But man, that's 60 minutes... GONE! I frustrate myself for almost an hour, multiple times per week. for little to no reason... That's why my blood pressure is high. I'm never going to come up with a project idea, and I can't even afford the Instax film so why is it on my agenda? I could have used that time so much more efficiently had I just gave the shit away... Gave it away to someone who actually could use it and had a project in mind. If it's less than a 7, subtract it from your life.

Less is More

It amazes me how many of these "life" lessons can often relate to photography. Whenever I look at pictures from Tokyo or New York I often fall in love with how full the frame is. The other day I was browsing through the subreddit r/streetphotography/ and I came across this beautifully filled frame captured by.... The image, or edit, may not be to everyone's taste, but I fell in love with it. Those opportunities don't permit themselves too often in Detroit, sure we have moments in which they're people walking, but the city just isn't built for heavy traffic.

Late night pizza, dude-love, and taxi drivers | Bang Photography

At times this upsets me, I always go out thinking what more could I add to the frame? What areas have intercrosses and people?... The answer is, not many, and this frame above is possible, but it would take one hell of a night to capture it. These type of  moments don't occur often, people don't walk in groups Downtown Detroit... There's nowhere to go.

I know this sounds depressing, but there's a bright light at the end, I promise. The key to success is to simply subtract from the frame. Maybe I won't fully capture the rule of thirds or triangle or whatever it is, but what I can convey through my images is emotion. Images of people and isolation actually are pleasing, I know this because when I see one it's the feeling I encounter when analyzing the photograph.

Learn Less

One of my favorite street photographers is Vivian Maier, I'm not just a fan of her story (though that's how I found out about her), but I love her work as well. I think what sets her apart from everyone else, is the fact that she just shot. Vivian was ignorant... I don't know this for certain, but roll the dice with me on this one.

Vivian went out and shot, no group, no mentor, just a camera. She did what she loved, she just happened to be good at it. Had she received some prior training it's safe to say that she wouldn't have been as fearless out there. I can count 100 times when I went on a photowalk and thought to myself, that's technically wrong, not a good shot, or too cliche, it's been done over and over again. Learning kills creativity. 

Think about it! How many times have you not tried something simply because someone else told you it was wrong? Just last week I was making a turkey burger for me and my friend, I mistakenly confused the cinnamon for pepper and added it to my burger... It was one of the best burgers I've ever had. I wouldn't have tried that on a regular day. I wasn't taught that cinnamon went on burgers, I wasn't taught that mayo and fries was good. We learn best when we're ignorant. I don't know how to cook, so often times I improvise and I discover dishes that taste great. If my house was filled with cook books I probably wouldn't have made this findings.

Almost a year ago I posted a street photography video of me roaming the streets of Chicago. I was shooting with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF 35. Everyone enjoyed the video, but people just couldn't seem to understand the usage of burst mode. Everyone questioned my method... "Do more! But do not use burst mode ;P". A few even went on to go as far as saying burst mode is cheating.

Where are these rules coming from? Why can't I shoot in burst mode? Is it because it makes me unskilled? Am I praying and spraying? Every photographer has their own personal reason for doing things. I run a blog, so I often like to shoot in burst mode in case one of my subjects reacts with a handup or gesture that tells me not to take their photo, after I talk and explain my situation they usually allow me to continue photographing or use the images I had previously captured... These make for great blog headers, especially ones that battle the fear of photography.

But what if I had Google searched street photography burst mode rules. One of the first things to pop up is Eric Kim's blog, the post is entitled;

 10 Things Garry Winogrand Can Teach You About Street Photography.

The article doesn't blatantly say DON'T SHOOT IN BURST MODE, but he expresses that Garry want's you to shoot, a lot, and by shooting a lot he doesn't mean in burst mode. Now I know this is a slight reach, but if I'm a new photographer then I may take this as burst mode being a huge no no, along with aperture priority, JPEG and photographs of people on cell phones.

For the longest time I wanted to start a daily vlog series via Youtube. I researched day and night on how to do it, and I never did. I was to worried about not being able to keep up with Casey Neistat. I didn't have the right gear, I don't have a fancy studio nor do I live in New York... I hindered myself by consuming too much information.

2 months ago I started using Snapchat, I use it daily and I document my life pretty much. I'm careless with it, there are no rules, no proper way to do so, and everything I could have done in the vlog I'm now doing on Snapchat, simply because I didn't hinder myself by trying to figure out the best way to do it.


Boom, there you have it. This is my new outlook on life, my new outlook on photography. I'm done caring about what gear I have, what gear I think I need. I'm just going to create, to the best of my ability. Stop telling yourself you need more to create, more to be happy, utilize the tools you have in life, be a better friend to the friends you already have, consume less information, watch less tv, less ads. Less is more, you'll notice decisions will be easier to make, your mind will be clear. Take Tim Ferriss's advice, get rid of things you don't need, cleanse your home, if you need it later down the road, rebuy it. For this blog I'm going to focus on less content, not in a way in which I won't be sharing but I'm not going to beat myself up if I miss a day of posting. Sometimes you have to let the content you put out marinate.

Related: Sometimes You Have to Let Your Photos Marinate

By the way, this post itself has inspired me to attempt daily vlogging. My life isn't as exciting as it was last year, with me working a full time job now, but again I'm not going to let that hold me back. I've attempted this once before, and I've announced it 30 times, but hopefully this time is a for sure go. The next vlog should be up Monday, hopefully you like it, if not then... it'll get better. In the meantime check out my YouTube channel and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the upcoming content.