rant

Low Self-Esteem and Defending Your Value as a Creative by Michael Jin

©2019 Michael Jin.

I have made no secret of my struggles with depression and low self-esteem. While I take medication to mitigate the effects, they are insidious forces that have a tendency to creep up when least expected. As a creative, there is an extremely fine line that we consistently walk the edge of. This is the line between realistic self-evaluation and destructive pessimism. In order to grow, one needs to examine his work and identify the weaknesses that require improvement. Doing so, however, can cause one to focus on the constant inadequacy that comes with not being perfect. This is a basic inner struggle that many creatives contend with and one that I have spoken about previously.

The struggle is enhanced, however, when it is removed from the realm of personal thoughts to the realm of business. As a creative working within a creative field, we are tasked with not only creating work, but attributing value to it in the form of our pricing. This is a tricky process and one which many books have been written about. Certainly, you can look at pricing across the market and place yourself somewhere that you deem reasonable based upon factors such as experience, brand recognition, quality of work, etc. and it would be a decent solution to the problem, but what happens when you run into a situation where the market is saturated with hobbyists who are willing to work for a credit or some paltry sum that is not viable to build an income from? Do you value your time and work the same way they do? Do you stick to your guns and charge based on what you need in order for all of this to be worth it to you? Do you pack up and find another line of work?

This is not a polemic against people willing to work for free or people who are taking side gigs just to pay for their own hobby. While many of them are genuinely talented and are underselling themselves, they are not responsible for thinking about others. As long as they are meeting their own goals, they are justified in pricing themselves however they choose. For anyone who tries to make a primary income from photography, however, it is a reality that needs to be accounted for. How do you defend your value to the potential clients to whom you are quoting a price for work?

The simple answer is to be better. You need to provide better consultation. You need to provide a better product. You need to provide better service. You need to provide a better customer experience. Above all, you need to be better at simply turning people down. It’s that last part that is probably the most difficult. The notion of the “starving artist” is a real thing and particularly when we are beginning, it is so easy to try to grab any little payday that we can. If someone is willing to pay you $50 and it’s $50 that you didn’t have before, how do you send them away? You can even rationalize it away to some extent. After all, it might just be an hour of work so theoretically you’re making $50/hour, right?

The adversarial nature of negotiations only makes it more difficult. As the service provider, you clearly want to make the most money that you possibly can. The client who has to pay wants to pay the least that they possibly can. So while you are defending your value, it is likely that the client is going to do their best to devalue you and your work. Whether it is attacking your experience (or lack thereof), pointing out problems with your product, dismissing the nature of your job as simply pressing a button, etc. If you get into this business, expect people to diminish your profession to try to work your price down.

On the one hand, every barb that a client levels at me hurts me at my core due to my natural low self-esteem. When these conversations occur, it is no longer an inner monologue beating me up—it is a real person on the other side of the conversation pointing out my weaknesses. It often becomes a spiral where, by extension of the worthlessness of my work, I feel worthless as a human being. This leads me down a very dark emotional path. On the other hand, it angers me to no end when these discussions inevitably occur because I tend to take it all very personally for the reasons I just described. For those that may not suffer from mental health issues in the way that I do, this might all seem the height of irrationality, but depression is not a rational thing. Like I said, it’s an insidious thing that can creep up on you and grip you before you realize what’s happening.

Why am I bringing all of this up and what’s the point? Even though it’s something that I continue to struggle with and something for which I’ve found no infallible solution, I want to let others like me know that they are not alone. Creative industries can be difficult for people who do not suffer from depression or low self-esteem, but for those who do, the nature of the business can lead one down some ugly emotional paths. One thing that I started doing in the morning is looking in the mirror and reminding myself that I have value and that my work has value. When I engage in negotiations, I keep my temper and remind myself that the client is not personally attacking me (usually), but that they have a legitimate concern about how their money is spent and expect me to provide assurances for them in the form of my own defense of my product. Above all, deal with people courteously even when it comes to turning work down. Simply saying that, “Unfortunately, I simply can’t do this at that price.” or “I don’t think that this arrangement is going to make sense for me.” and providing some alternatives in the form of references to cheaper photographers or potential solutions to make their project more reasonably priced is always better than “Go fuck off.”.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most professional person in the world by a long stretch. I’m crass, I’m prone to severe mood swings, and I prefer to be very informal. I am not the right photographer for every client, but I’m honest about that. I didn’t get into this to be rich (although it would be nice if it ended that way). I got into this because I love photography and I want to help people with my skill set. Regardless of how I may think of myself, I can help people solve their creative problems (within the limits of my own ability) and that extends beyond simply taking on jobs. My value as a creative is to be able to create for you when I can and to lead you to others who can do for you what I cannot. Essentially, my value as a creative is that I actually give a fuck about you (whether you deserve it or not) and that’s more than can be said about a lot of people.

This is My Camera. There are Many Like It, but This One is Mine... And I Hate It. by Michael Jin

Life can be seen as a series of forks in the road, every moment represents some sort of decision to be made. Some are small with little real consequence while others have more significant stakes. For a photographer, one of the biggest decisions to be made is one’s choice of camera. Let me qualify this by pointing out that just about every single modern camera from any major manufacturer is capable of producing outstanding images. I am not going to nitpick about resolution, dynamic range, or many of the other things that people regularly bitch about simply because outside of a few edge cases, they tend to be of little consequence. In my mind, the significance of the choice of camera is two-fold.

First is that since the major manufacturers these days use proprietary mounts (exceptions to the rule being the Micro-4/3 Mount and the newly minted “L-Mount Alliance” of Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma), buying a camera is generally the first step into a much deeper investment into a SYSTEM. This system consists of camera bodies, accompanying native lenses developed for the proprietary mount of those bodies, various accessories often designed for the proprietary connections or software and generally some investment into a consistent workflow in the form of similar menu structures or button placement across various bodies. Yes, adapters exist, but outside of native adapters provided by the manufacturer such as Sony’s A-Mount adapter, Canon’s EF-Mount adapter, or Nikon’s FTZ adapter, you are probably going to take some sort of performance hit if you are adapting lenses onto camera bodies that they are not designed for. So your choice of camera will largely dictate where several hundred or several thousand more dollars will be spent and any switch in systems will likely be accompanied by a significant loss in the form of selling off your system lenses and accessories at a lower price than you likely purchased them for.

The second significant aspect of your camera choice is how it affects your shooting. This might sound really stupid at first, but just about every aspect of a camera body will have some sort of effect on the way you will use in the real world and this will, in turn, affect what you choose to photograph, when you choose to photograph, and how you choose to photograph. For a pretty jarring example, take the difference between a standard SLR camera, a rangefinder, and a TLR camera. The way each of these body types are designed lend themselves to certain types of shooting. You might find yourself gravitating toward candid photography with a rangefinder while avoiding fashion photography. You might find that an SLR draws you more toward portraiture or landscapes and less toward street photography. You might find yourself being drawn to street portraiture with a TLR around your neck while avoiding macro photography. Everyone has their particular inclinations and the nature of the camera body in their hand will naturally skew your shooting away from the weaknesses of that body and toward its strengths. Human beings, being the lazy creatures we are, tend to just go with this flow rather than stubbornly fight it.

Aside from obvious technological differences, however, there are many more subtle considerations that will undoubtedly affect how you use your camera. A smaller camera will be more easily used in discreet situations than a larger one. A camera with comfortable ergonomics will probably be used for longer duration than an uncomfortable one. A lighter camera is probably more likely to be carried around than a heavier one. A camera that is weathersealed is more likely to be taken out on a rainy day than one that isn’t, even if you have a separate weathersealing cover. If a camera has a complicated menu system, you’re probably less likely to change your menu settings as often as on a camera with an intuitive menu system. All of these little technical details and obstacles shape your interaction with this thing that is supposed to be the bridge between your vision and the photograph that you capture. In an ideal world, there would be no such barrier or obstacle, but in light of the fact that there are, it is often easier to adjust ourselves to our tools than it is to adjust the tools to us—particularly if you consider the cost involved in swapping out those tools as mentioned earlier. So the camera, though it is a tool, becomes a critical element in shaping your photography and, over time with much repetition, shaping how you see the world.

You can probably see, then, why choosing the wrong camera body can result in all sorts of headache, frustration, and unhappiness. If you are expecting this post to devolve into some sort of rant about my choice of camera equipment at this point, you earn a gold star for your prescience.

A while back, I was faced with a choice. I had purchased the Nikon D850 (trading in my Nikon D810). I had numerous lenses and accessories in the Nikon DSLR system, including the relatively new NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E, which was an amazing lens. Paired with the D850 which was an amazing camera, I really didn’t feel like I lacked anything except perhaps a few more esoteric lenses to potentially plug up some holes (eg. a macro lens). Looking around me, however, I could clearly see that a major shift in the market was likely going to come—the mass exodus to MILC cameras.

Up until that point, Sony had been the only real player in the full frame MILC market with Canon and Nikon effectively ignoring it until they no longer couldn’t. Rumors swirled around and eventually both companies confirmed that their serious foray into the full frame MILC market was imminent. At this point, the D850 that I had purchased months earlier was still somehow out of stock in the USA and I realized that if it came down to trading in or selling my gear, it was not likely to have more value than at that point due to the continued demand. I decided that the best financial move would be to cease any further investment into DSLR technology (cameras, lenses, accessories) and move my investment into an MILC since I figured that Canon and Nikon themselves would likely ramp down and cease their DSLR development pretty quickly to catch up to Sony. So the choice was made: I would wait to see what Nikon announced first and see whether I would pre-order the Z 7 or purchase a Sony A7RIII. Canon was never a realistic choice for me simply having been with Nikon so long. I could see a jump to Sony, but not Canon and besides, at that point, Sony had the most mature full-frame MILC system in the market.

To get right to the point, the Z 7 announcement (and the Z 6 announcement) was rather underwhelming to me as was the announced lens road map. While it had some good points in ergonomics and weathersealing, the lack of dual slots, reportedly poor AF, and the decision to launch with zero premium lenses quickly made me realize that the body would require at least one iteration and the lens road map would have to progress at LEAST two years before there was a solid system with native lenses there for me. So I made the jump to Sony, which was made easier by a trade-in rebate that they were offering at the time if you traded in a camera from another manufacturer. Adorama gave me a pretty good quote for all of my gear and I was leaving with my new A7RIII and a handful of lenses to get me started in the Sony eco-system.

Truth be told, I had never intended for my stay in the Sony eco-system to be permanent. I figured that since they had the most fully fleshed out MILC system, I would benefit from that while waiting for Nikon to catch up and then re-evaluating in a few years. I knew going into the purchase that there were several issues with Sony cameras in general that would likely irk me. For one, Nikon weathersealing had always been rock solid and I am the type that prefers to walk around with my camera in the rain without an umbrella. Pretty much every test for Sony cameras in that regard has been dismal. Sony cameras are also much more compact than a camera like the D850. This is a feature that some people really enjoy, but I tend to prefer a bigger grip on my cameras even at the cost of extra size and weight. Also, while Sony’s eco-system is the most fully fleshed out, it is currently a bit of a mess due to some early decision that were made to license the Zeiss name for some of their lenses—a practice they have stopped and have pretty much replaced with the G-Master designation. Regardless, this created some odd results such as the “budget” 35mm option inexplicably being an $800 35mm f/2.8 lens and a little bit of initial confusion on my part regarding whether those lenses were being produced by Sony or Zeiss (I have since learned that they are manufactured by Sony) and whether, if they are manufactured by Sony, they are actually Zeiss designs. I will not say that I was unaware of any of this going into my purchase. What I was completely unaware of was simply how much of an impact all of these seemingly small things would have on my photography and how miserable I would end up becoming due to all of it.

On paper, the Sony A7RIII is really not that different from the D850 that I traded in. The 55mm f/1.8 was close enough in focal length and aperture to the 58mm f/1.4G that I traded in. On paper and in theory, there might have been a small adjustment period, but the images that I produce ought to have largely been close to the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is the point where Sony apologists will flame me, hurl insults, and tell me all of the simple solutions that I could employ to overcome any of the issues that I have experienced and none of it would be technically wrong. Every single issue could be compensated for. I could purchase a grip so that my pinkie stops hanging off the bottom of my camera. I could buy a rain cover so that my camera would be weatherproof. I could just get used to using the EVF or turning the Live Effect OFF to mimic an OVF. I could do all manner of things and all manner of solutions have run through my mind in the ensuing months. Remember what I said about human laziness and how cameras will, though their own strengths and weaknesses, start to affect your photographic vision over time? At the end of all of the pontificating, the only question I’m left with is, “Yes, I can do all of these things, but why should I?”

Simply put, why should I live in constant frustration with all of these little annoyances? Why should I have to deal with a viewfinder that changes brightness depending on where I’m pointing it even when the Live Effect is OFF? Why should I have to worry about getting my camera wet? Why should I be OK with a control scheme that makes it ridiculously easy to change a setting by spinning a stupid wheel? Why should my hands always feel slightly cramped while holding my camera? Why should I feel like my camera is a delicate novelty rather than a workhorse that I can bludgeon someone with? All of these stupid little preferences and annoyances that are simply my own, but why should I change nearly every habit I had in regard to the interactions between me and my camera? Is this just growing pains? Is there some meaningful benefit to all of this in the end? What am I enduring this joyless, soulless feeling every time I pick up this camera for—a camera that doesn’t allow me to even think straight or clearly when I’m holding it because SOMETHING about it is constantly bothering me? Why did using my camera and taking a photograph suddenly become a stressful experience that I had to think through rather than the natural act that it used to be? Does it get better? Do I care enough to wait for it to get better?

This is not an indictment on Sony’s cameras. I don’t believe them to be inferior to anything on the market today. From a purely technological standpoint, I don’t think that there’s a camera on the market today that will surpass a comparable Sony. Perhaps that day will come, but it’s simply not today and judging from a demo I’ve seen recently of some upcoming firmware that will make their Eye-AF absolutely ridiculous, I would say it might not even be tomorrow. Sony makes amazing cameras, but the more I use mine, the more I am coming to the realization that it’s simply not the right camera for me. Until I made this decision to switch I had not realized how much of my photographic vision and habits were tied to my Nikon cameras—their ergonomics, lenses, weathersealing, weight, menu design, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever been as unproductive in my photography as I have with my Sony. It seems as if everything just feels wrong and I simply can’t get into the zone that I’m usually able to get into and it doesn’t seem to be the fault of any particular Sony feature, but simply the camera system in aggregate. Whereas before I was more than happy to lug around my heavy D850 with grip and cadre of lenses everywhere I went, I find myself leaving my Sony A7RIII at home unless I know for a fact that I have a job to shoot. When your $3000+ camera doesn’t fill your heart with some degree of joy in using it, it really becomes time for a re-evaluation of things.

I am not entirely sure where I go from here as I still don’t believe investing into a DSLR at this point to be a wise use of my money, but one thing is for sure. This has been an extremely expensive and emotionally frustrating lesson to me that while photography is ultimately not about the tools, the tools that you use can have a great deal of influence on the joy of the process—and, in turn, the comfort with which you can exercise your creativity and vision. It has also been an important reminder that the value of a camera lies way beyond a sheet that lists technical specifications or features. Like I said, just about every camera can produce the images you need. That doesn’t, however, mean that every camera is good for everyone.

Micro-Contrast and Other Nonsense by Michael Jin

Even though I don’t exactly have money pouring out of my orifices, I’m always on the lookout for new (and sometimes old?) and interesting camera equipment. One of a biggest benefits of switching from a DSLR system to an MILC system has been the fact that I can find an adapter to fit just about any DSLR or SLR lens ever made onto my Sony A7RIII. Sure, I had by Helios 44M, Helios 40-2, and a few Jupiter lenses back on my D850, but it was much harder to find lenses to fit that camera since they had to be specifically modified to achieve infinity focus and even when you got one that was, manually focusing on a modern DSLR was just not a very fun thing to do.

Because of this, I’ve found a whole world of vintage lenses that has opened up to me since getting my new camera and this is nice because a lot of older lenses tend to be cheaper than the new stuff. How does one go about sorting out good lenses from bad ones, though? As I’ve said, I don’t have tons of money so I’m constantly reading lens reviews so try to get an idea of their characteristics and performance… and so begins my rant.

© 2019 Michael Jin. Pentax Super Takumar 55mm f/2 (M42 Mount) on Sony A7RIII.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. As I read these reviews for lenses, I really start to get that feeling. Going through essay after essay of people driveling on and on in their efforts to describe the visual characteristics of these lenses quickly begins to feel like listening to Food Network hosts describing whatever garbage that they’re munching on for the camera. I’m not sure where the language originated from (and I admittedly don’t care enough to go looking), but you start to see the same fucking words over and over again applied to EVERY SINGLE LENS. If you’re at all interested in photography, you’ve probably seen them, too. How many lenses have “CREAMY BOKEH", “BUTTERY SMOOTH BOKEH”, or some variation of this? How many lenses “DRAW WELL” or “RENDER IMAGES WELL”? And, for fuck’s sake, how many lenses have “GREAT MICRO-CONTRAST”?

WHAT THE FUCK IS MICRO-CONTRAST?

© 2017 Michael Jin. NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G on Nikon D810.

More importantly, however

WHY THE HELL SHOULD I CARE?

Unlike most things in life, I’ve actually taken the time to try to look up what the hell “micro=contrast” is simply due to the ubiquity of the term’s use in discussions of lenses and the fact that people constantly talk about it like it’s the most important thing in the world. As far as I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be any universally accepted definition of what this term means nor have I found an unequivocal method of testing for it. It seems more like bullshit jargon made up by people and thrown around in discussions to sound smarter than other people or simply as a catch-all term used to quantify all of the shit that people can’t actually describe with other words.

On the one hand, I get it. If you put me on the spot and asked me to describe how any given lens renders, I would have an incredibly difficult time explaining it to you. If you asked me to start comparing lenses to each other, this would only get more difficult. For you, the reader, this might be disappointing if I was positioning myself as some sort of expert in these matters so I need to find SOME way to describe what’s going on even if I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think “micro-contrast” is pretty much the photographic version of “umami”. You can’t point out exactly what the hell it is, but you “know it” when you encounter it. It also happens to be the universal fallback for any argument that involves justifying the price of a really really expensive lens when every quantifiable metric favors the cheaper lens.

© 2019 Michael Jin. Mir-1 37mm f/2.8 Lens (M42 Mount) on Sony A7RIII.

Whether it’s Bokeh, Micro-Contrast, Peceptual Megapixels (an even more egregiously coined term), or whatever else, I find that I’m really tired of reading about this crap. Here’s an idea: WHY NOT JUST SHOW ME? Considering that all of these reviewers actually have their hands on the lenses that they are reviewing, it’s pretty amazing how much crap some of them can write while not showing a damned photo other than some test charts or the occasional plan gray shot to show the vignette at different apertures. Does anyone seriously care about this shit? If you show me some nice photos taken with a lens, I’m not going to ask you what the MTF chart looks like or how many “perceptual megapixels” the lens resolves.

Sure, tell me what the lens feels like. Describe how well the focus ring is dampened or whether the lens suffers from focus breathing. These are all things that are an essential part of the use of a lens that you can’t convey through an image. But by God, why the hell would you bother trying to describe the visual rendition that a lens creates when you can just take some damned pictures and post them?

© 2017 Michael Jin. Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 on Nikon D810.

Anyway, I just felt like letting loose after a round of reading through some vintage lens reviews. If you’re a reviewer and you happen to be struggling with how to describe a lens. Do us all a favor and just go out and take a fucking picture.

© 2017 Michael Jin. Helios 44M 58mm f/2 on Nikon D810.

Oh, and the latest lens that I’ve been eyeing? It’s the Jupiter-9.

Fuck People, Fuck Their Opinions, and Fuck Their Ideals by Michael Jin

You that saying about opinions being like assholes? It’s true. Everyone has a god damned opinion about everything—myself included. Sometimes, such as in the case of your employer’s opinion of you, these opinions matter. Other times, such as in the case of the opinion of some random passerby you don’t know, they just don’t. Regardless of whether they matter or not, we work so hard to cultivate our self image so that people form positive opinions of us, don’t we? Be it our personal image or business image, managing social perception is a very real thing that we all engage in on some level.

We buy certain clothes, we cut our hair in certain styles, we listen to certain music, we drive certain cars, etc. Businesses conduct focus groups to determine which shade of purple gets the most positive reactions or which programs get aired. The fucked up thing is that it all makes a great deal of sense to manage your image because you never know what kind of situation might arise and there’s no second chance to make a first impression. That random passerby that you flipped off might be the person conducting your job interview later in the day. Some guy you pulled up to and swore at might end up being the waiter at a restaurant that you visit. It’s only natural, then, that we would hedge our bets and try to be the best version of ourselves that we can be at all times—or at very least the most socially acceptable version of ourselves.

I’d like to preface the rest of this by saying that I don’t believe that we ought to be complete assholes to one another. There’s room in this world for civil discourse when it comes to areas of disagreement and whenever practical, I believe that physical conflict is something that should be avoided. That having been said, I do believe that this practice of social image management has led to the repression of something very critical to all of us: our very humanity.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve decided that this ideal social image that we’ve created for ourselves in the process of managing our social images is the way people ought to be rather than understanding that far from our default human nature, it’s merely a facade that we construct as an act of enlightened self-interest. We then denounce those who deviate from this fabricated ideal as crude, rude, crass, unenlightened, or whatever other negative term we can come up with to codify them as lower forms of the human creature. Then we apply social penalties in the form of hiring practices, housing practices, boycotts, etc.

Of course there certainly exists a contingent of people who probably belong in these categories and certainly deserve to be demonized. I’m not going to argue that everyone is somehow good in their own fucked up way. Some people are just horrible human beings and a blight to society. This is not meant to be an apology for murderers, rapists, burglars, or drug dealers (that deserves its own post). This is about people who might swear, make an off-color joke, or hold views that are not popular. It’s about the guy on the football team that likes to sing Taylor Swift songs in the shower or the cheerleader that wants to get a face tattoo. It’s about people being who they are and accepting reality for what it is rather than the idyllic vision of it that we hold in our minds.

You see, we are not these perfectly manicured creatures that we expect ourselves to be. The fact that we so often have to suppress our urges to gain social acceptance means that we are effectively being told that we are not good enough for society as we are. Our anger is not acceptable for society. Our lust is not acceptable for society. Our greed is not acceptable for society. Hell, we have 7 Deadly Sins that are codified that pretty much cover the gamut of our base urges. Whether it’s by parenting, a religious institution, the legal institution, academic institution, or just the confluence of plain old everyday interactions, we are told that the person we desire to be is unacceptable and that we must, instead, desire to be somehow “better” than our real selves. So we create these masks for ourselves and we become chameleons, adjusting out behavior and language to different situations. In the process, we often lose sight of who we are on the inside and, in doing so, lose the ability to empathize with those that choose not to play this game.

How does any of this relate to photography? There are a number of ways, but I suspect that if you think about it, you’ll know them. Photography, like fashion, has its trends that come and go. Photographers, like country club members, have their own manners of interaction. Photography communities, like political parties, so often become echo chambers of people voicing the same ideas, patting each other on the back, and hounding anyone who dares to disagree. As for why I started to think about this issue, I’ll leave you with this.

Recently I began to handle some rudimentary social media posting for a company. A big part of the company identity and branding involves embracing the heritage and spirit of New York City. There wasn’t much going on in terms of prepared content so I decided to put up some photos that I wasn’t really doing anything with to fill any void. I was told that the black and white film photos that I was posting were “too depressing” and that I should remove the hashtag “#thirtyfivefuckingmillimeter” that I had attached to one of the 35mm film photos that I took. Obviously this is a case of paid work so I went ahead and made the requested adjustments, but it really got me thinking….

I am a photographer who captures real moments that exist in front of my eyes. The fact that the vast majority of my photography is some form of street photography means that these are moments that happen in front of not just my eyes, but the eyes of hundreds or thousands of people everyday. I am not a painter, creating imagery on canvas that only exists in my mind. While we can argue to what degree the scenes that I capture depict reality and how they are presented further affect the narrative, if there is a store with its gate down because it went out of business in my photo I think we can all agree that it’s highly likely that it’s a store that’s out of business.

Yes, New York City has many beautiful sights. It has a beautiful skyline, beautiful bridges, beautiful parks, etc. But for every fucking derivative copy-cat photo of the Manhattan Bridge from DUMBO, there are a million photos of graffiti on walls, buildings in disrepair, homeless people on the street, bustling outdoor markets, people waiting for a subway, etc. The real New York City is not the shit that you see in post cards. It’s the fucking Halal stand underneath the 7 Train. It’s the guy walking down a row of cars stopped at a red light asking for spare change. It’s some dumbass kid doing his little hat/pole dance on a moving subway car. It’s people buying fake Prada bags from some shady street vendor with a cardboard sign. It’s a crowded subway platform filled with sweaty people that look miserable after a day of work and just want to get the fuck home. The New York City that most New Yorkers experience is not the well-manicured greenery of Central or Prospect park. It’s not the pinks and purples blanketing the beautiful Manhattan skyline. New York City is people often cramming themselves into dirty century-old apartments, being dwarfed by gigantic gray buildings, being surrounded by blinking lights and tacky advertising, and endless construction sites. For others, it’s living on a residential street not unlike plenty of featureless suburbs with plenty of parking and not an ounce of character to distinguish it as anything close to what comes to mind when people think of the city.

So if my photography in this city is depressing and it’s nothing but a reflection of things that we walk by everyday, maybe the problem isn’t my photography, but the city that I’m photographing. Or maybe, it’s depressing because the reality of our city doesn’t match the glamorous image that most people have of it. To me, New York City is not glamorous and beautiful nor is it dark and depressing. It just is… No, I don’t find East New York to be a particularly pleasant place to walk around, but it’s no less a part of our city than the Upper East Side. The thing is that I’m a lazy person by nature so I just photograph the shit that I see. I can’t be bothered to fabricate something that isn’t there for me. I don’t live in Central Park. I live near Jamaica Avenue. I don’t drive down Madison Avenue. I drive down Queens Boulevard. I don’t visit Prospect Park. My travels take me to Nostrand Avenue. So I’ll take my photos in color, but fuck if I’m going to run around taking pictures of a city that, for me, doesn’t exist.

So fuck people, fuck their opinions, and fuck their ideals… because people are fucking twisted and have lost sense of reality, whether it’s the reality of themselves or the reality of their environment. Be honest with yourself and accept the honesty of others. Maybe when we stop being a species of fake Ken and Barbie dolls, we’ll start being human again.

Apparently a really depressing image. | #thirtyfivefuckingmillimeter  © 2018 Michael Jin. All Rights Reserved.

Apparently a really depressing image. | #thirtyfivefuckingmillimeter

© 2018 Michael Jin. All Rights Reserved.

Me and Mother Fucking Nature by Michael Jin

© 2018 Michael Jin

I'm not a morning person. I'm also not really a "nature" person. Don't get me wrong. I heart the environment and all, but I'm generally most comfortable with my feet on pavement and the elements outside some sort of barrier that I can choose to close.

For some stupid reason, I decided to wake up at 5AM to go out and shoot photos. It appears that Mother Nature might be hinting at me to just sleep in and leave photographic the pretty stuff for all of the people that actually appreciate getting up early in the morning to see it.

Anyway, the sunrise shot that I was thinking of wasn't looking like it was going to work so I turned my camera is the other direction and this is pretty much the fruit of my effort. Yeah... Should have stayed in bed.


Lesson of the day: Before you decide to wake up at some ungodly hour to go out and take photos, check a fucking weather app.

Thought of the day: Sunsets and sunrises look the same... maybe I should move to the West Coast...