by Joyce Lin
Contributor/ UCLA Daily Bruin/ Los Angeles, CA

So the morning shooting rituals was exciting for about three weeks, then I got bored, and it just evolved into another ritual: shooting every waking hour. About a month ago, going on and off (depending upon schedule and dedication) I started this new ritual, which builds upon the morning-shooting rituals idea but is potentially even more obsessive, involving making a photograph every hour that I am awake. The photographs were meant to be documentary, but become repetitive after constantly shooting the same subject (my life) over a period of several days. A problem is shooting in places where it’s difficult or inappropriate to shoot, such as in a lecture or while in a meeting. However, shooting under these circumstances pushes me to get over my own insecurities and self-consciousness as a photographer while accustoming others to my shooting them. Another challenge is getting my hourly photo in a situation where one doesn’t notice the time, such as during painting, going out on a long jog (without the hefty camera), etc.

The hourly-shooting project is quite exciting; if only I were a better photographer. A goal is to become so proficient with the camera that I can lend excitement and visual interest to even the most mundane of photo-subjects, making every photo-shoot (even the dreaded meeting-photos) visually popping. But it’s so difficult. David Leeson said that he challenged himself to go on the most mundane photo-assignments, because unless one can master shooting the mundane and making it look good (while being photojournalistically correct and meaningful), there is no point in going abroad or anywhere else to attempt to take photographs (in his instance, to go off to shoot war zones).

And now, to rant:

What to do when a sudden flurry of circumstances and battling interests (each valiantly vying for my limited attention) draws away from my focus on photojournalism, which I consider as absolutely important to my life; I must practice, must keep shooting, must do everything…?

Criticism is wonderful; I know that it’s good for me and integral to my growing into being the best I can be as a photojournalist. However, after every lecture and/or harsh critique of my work, my heart drops; I feel both a heightened awareness of my own inadequacy as a photojournalist, (which makes me want to shoot more), and a crushed discouragement at my own horribleness that makes me ashamed of my photos, (inducing a craving for a massive hole for me to climb into, shielding myself from the rays of light-creating photographs, and forgetting about the dream altogether, for sometimes, it all feels so truly hopeless).

Sometimes, I consider divorcing my camera. What a thought. But it’s the wrong idea. The camera established my identity and most of my relationships in my life; to live without it is unthinkable; nevertheless, having the camera occasionally constitutes not directly experiencing life; the photographer experiences life vicariously through others through the camera lens. The camera may be a passport to all sorts of events, causing people to act differently, either to smile more, to do ridiculous things, to be more cautious and alert of doing dumb things, etc. Oh, camera! What a tool! Sometimes it feels so stupid that I must rely upon it for pleasure and to live life. Someday however, I hope this tool to provide a living for me. To make a living out of utilizing the camera to take pictures, and thus to capture life. Does capturing life entail not living it fully? Or does making photographs cause one to experience life even more deeply because one attempts to understand it better and translate it to a visual language to share with the world? For one does live through the camera, but only THROUGH the camera, not living truly. Can life be lived without the camera? It must be… through photojournalism, I’ve learned so much more about my college and experienced so much more than all of my non-photojournalist friends. We are truly privileged to be able to do this. To do this for the rest of my life ought to be amazing. I must stop questioning and get working.

To truly understand a subject, one must immerse oneself within the subject’s environment. However, there is always the lingering thought of, “I’m supposed to be making a photo. So, how’s the light? Any interesting actions? Expression? Etc.” One isn’t fully immersed in the environment, because the camera fully occupies at least a portion of, if not most of, the photographer’s thoughts.

In the summer, I shall be traveling across America for my first ever paid photojournalism internship. I am both apprehensive (now I shall truly find out whether or not this is for me! I hope I haven’t been planning and toiling in vain, only to find that I hate this…) and excited (I get to get away from my parents and home of 18 years, do what I love, and figure out my future this summer! Yeeeaah!) It’s a very teeter-totter sort of situation. And this is my final summer of college. What madness is this?! How did it all pass by so quickly?! Life zooms ridiculously quickly.


Joyce Lin






I am adding this commentary and these suggestions with the permission of the author.

When I read this journal by Joyce Lin it brought me back many, many years to the exuberance of my own youth.

When I received my first adjustable 35mm camera (an Argus C-3) in my mid-teens, I also felt compelled to burn lots of film in an effort to find my artistic niche.

While I never attempted the rigorous discipline described here by Joyce, I pointed my lens at everything. There seemed to be so many photographable subjects screaming for my attention. The cost of film was an issue considering my meager teenaged allowance. So I bought military surplus 35mm movie film and loaded used film cassettes in the darkness of my closet. Who could have dreamed of the financial freedom that would occur many years later in the form of digital photography.

So, Joyce, please allow me to urge you to burn digital images and not to be discouraged if the immediate results seem to be unworthy of your aspirations. Learn from your mistakes. Analyze every photograph and think of what you might have done to make it a better picture. Imagine how that shot might have looked with a different lens; a different perspective; a lower angle. Perhaps strong back or side-lighting would have separated the subject from the background. Play around with different tools and techniques and remember what works and what doesn't.

Pay attention to other photographers' photographs. Do you see something that you really admire? Pick that shot apart in your mind and try to get into the artist's head to see what he/she was striving for. Utilize everything you like in your own work. BUT, don't just copy someone else's style. Add your own personal twist to it. Otherwise you will be guilty of mimicking another artist's talent.

Eventually you will build up a style of your own and you will know when that happens.

Your attention to the words of David Leeson concerning his willingness to devote extra effort in making good photos at mundane assignments will pay dividends in your future. That is possibly the best advice you could ever get.

If you are fortunate enough to be hired as a free-lancer or staff photographer for a newspaper, you will get your share of what I have frequently called "headshots and real estate" assignments. If you maintain an attitude that you will make the best "head shot" or "building shot" ever made, you will please your editors and you will please yourself. Don't settle for the eye level, normal lens, front-lit snapshots. Look around. Use your head; your eyes; your senses. Let me add; you MUST come back with a photo that can be used in the paper, and that might have to be a straight forward shot. But, after making that "safe" shot, go wild. Be artistic. Don't be afraid. Do something that you've never done before. Do something that you've never seen before. Just make certain that you come back with something that the paper can use. Many Picture Editors won't understand some of your ideas and many will be afraid to use something that's out of the ordinary. That's why you have to have something that they can use. Also, remember the word RELEVANCE, when making photographs for newspapers. But, you will please yourself with your diversity and someday, you might be able to slip a good one through the door.

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As far as your concern about criticism, don't be afraid. Listen to what people say about your work. Naturally, there will be criticism from fools who think they know all there is to know about photography when the truth is that they have no sensibility about making good photographs. You need to be able to separate the fools from the cognizatti. Politely listen to the fools and then dismiss their advice. But, listen and learn from those who know of what they preach.

Right now, your life is what you see through the viewfinder. You need to immerse yourself into your photography. There will come a time when getting great photos will be second nature and you won't have to work so hard to attain your goal. Then you can go out and get a life outside of your profession.

Good luck, Joyce.

Dick Kraus
Assignment Sheet



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