Eric Kim

Human Nature - Some first thoughts on ARS BETA. by Simeon Smith

Today I was invited to try a beta version of a new app by my mancrush, Eric Kim. 

Cards on the table here, folks. 

Yes, I love Eric. His photography, his writing, his outlook. 

I don't know who took this photo because... well the site doesn't tell you. 

I don't know who took this photo because... well the site doesn't tell you. 

ARS (pronouced “Ours”, not “Arse”… I’ve already told him that all brits will read “ARSE”), is a “feedback” tool for photographers. It’s basically "Hot or Not” for photographs. For each photo users upload you can tell them to “KEEP” it or “DITCH” it.  There currently aren’t any networking tools in place, just very basic profiles and photos getting flashed up on a screen. 

Now we could have the age old conversation about how art isn’t competition and how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, that’s a worthwhile conversation to be had, but for the average photographer, trying to appeal to a mass market, feedback on photos that you’re not sure about can be a tool to decide what photos to use to promote your next workshop, which photos you should have on the landing page of your website… you get the idea. And hey, if you don’t like the idea of people rating or slating your work, don’t sign up. 

The only argument against this kind of voluntary rating thing for art (and I mean this for anything, Facebook likes, download charts for music, the oscars) is that it perpetuates a culture of art being competitive. And this is where the ARS proposition gets interesting, and potentially where it’s downfall lies. 

(And I’m sorry, in my head when I type it I still say ARSE) 

The only other feature of the site is a “Top Photos” section, where the highest rated photos are shown off in all their relativistic glory. 

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Maybe I’m some kind of twisted person. 

Maybe I’m just not that nice. 

But it doesn’t take a genius to realise that in order to get your photos on the “Top Photos” for the day, your photo needs to be up-voted, and other people’s photos need to be down-voted. 

In an anonymous world, where votes aren’t linked to personalities, few people are going to get to the “Top Photos” page by up-voting their competitors. 

I think Eric and the team behind ARS (yup, still ARSE), are imagining a world where people will visit the site to get honest, anonymous feedback on their work.

But while there’s a “Top Photos” page some people won’t be on the site for the feedback.

They’ll be there for the self-promotion. 

And that’s not a bad thing. Eric is one of the people I’ve learnt most from about self-promotion. He owns self-promotion. 

But it changes the dynamic of the site. 

Now to the good: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (which is really Facebook 2.0, don’t be fooled), currently OWN photo sharing. 

If you’re not on these sites, you don’t exist. 

I’m a big fan of people owning their own turf on the internet. That’s why I have this website. There’s no algorithm making a fool of this sites users. ARS might just give people back a small platform to share their work away from the billionaires’ playgrounds. 

And for that, I have a lot of hope.

(I’d like to point out that I didn’t down-vote a load of photos on the site for my own gain, though I could have. I’ve only down-voted two. One was offensively bad. Like VapourWave art bad. The other was of a cup of coffee. A fucking cup of coffee. And don't come all "Yeah, you upload photos of cups of coffee sometimes. Well I don't upload them to be rated, you weirdo.)

SEE ALSO: The Downvote Fairy. 


26 Weeks Camera Challenge #12: You're only as good... by Simeon Smith


You're only as good as your last haircut. - Fran Lebowitz

I've learnt so much from following Eric Kim's blog. If you don't already, go read his stuff now. 

One thing that I noticed when I first followed his work, is that he's taken some great photos, but he doesn't continuously publish new work. He editing and selection process most be really strict. 

When he does find a photo he loves though, it goes everywhere. He regularly re-uploads the same photos. And a strange psychological phenomenon happens.

Firstly, you only see great photos, and you think that all their work must be of that quality, when in reality maybe their "hit rate" of great photos is lower than yours. But also, in recognising work you've enjoyed before, you are reminded of the warmth you felt the first time you saw the image, and enjoy it more the second and third time around. 

Another great artist that publishes few images is Lee Jeffries. 

When I went to see David Hurn speak, he said that when he was starting out, publishers were only interested in a photographer's contact sheets (the full roll of film all printed out side by side on one sheet). These days it's more acceptable to spray and pray, taking dozens or sometimes hundreds of photos and then selecting only the best, but either way many artists self edit their work even after releasing it. 

Think George Lucas going over the original Star Wars trilogy again and again with different edits. 

This week your task is one of curation and self-editing. Go through your instagram feed, your portfolio, your albums, wherever you keep your photos, and delete anything you wouldn't publish again today. 


-What have you learnt since taking the photos you deleted?

-What mistake do you still make? 

-What treasure did you unearth?

3 Things I Learnt from Eric Kim by Simeon Smith

When I first got into film photography it was through a friend who was obsessed with the Lomography brand and ethos. To find out more I watched a lot of Youtube videos, the best of which were by Mijonju. Through Mijonju I found Digital Rev and Kai, and they introduced me to Eric Kim, the most prolific blogger on photography on the web. The photos in this article are photos I've been inspired to take through his writing. 

I really recommend you subscribe to Eric's blog. It's always upbeat and insightful, and most often deals with photography and life, as opposed to most other blogs which are most often about gear and, well... more gear. 

Here are 3 things I've learnt from watching Eric's videos and reading his blog and books. 

Good Photography is about life - Eric writes as much about his life, philosophy, diet, business, wife, family and coffee as he does about photography. Which is an amazing reflection of his photography. Photos about photography are pretty boring, but great photos always echo the photographer's life. Photography is inevitably realist, and Ansel Adams said "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer". It's that communication that makes photography so engaging. So now I try to take as many good photos about my life, my family, my routine, my home city, and my philosophy as I can. 

This photo was taken during a lecture I was giving with Tom, at the University we both work at.

This photo was taken during a lecture I was giving with Tom, at the University we both work at.

Gear Shmear - Eric shoots amazing photos with a compact digital camera. His ethos of choosing gear is all about portability and results, saying that you're more likely to take your camera everywhere if it's small and simple to shoot. He shoots in "P" mode, letting the camera do a lot of the technical work so he can concentrate on composing a great, emotive shot. He's not a luddite though, and often tries out new gear, but his reviews are very much about how a camera could work for someone, rather than the technical one-up-ism of the mainstream photography press. He coined the phrase "Mo' megapixels, mo' problems", a motto I live by.  

I shot this on my iPhone 5C. But... who cares. Gear Shmear, it's the results that count.

I shot this on my iPhone 5C. But... who cares. Gear Shmear, it's the results that count.

Shoot personal photos - Some my favourite photos from Eric are of his wife, Cindy. The connection between them permeates each photo. When my kids were born my wife and I decided that we wouldn't publish pictures of their faces on the internet. That was just for us. While Rachael was taking amazing alternative portraits of the kids, I just didn't take photos of them, because, well, if no one was going to see them what was the point? Eric's writing and photography made me question why I take photos and why I should be taking photos. My kids are now my favourite subjects, but most of those photos, are just for me, my family, and for them, when they're older.

My family. My all. 

My family. My all. 

Subscribe to Eric's blog here

Subscribe to my blog below. 

Eric, if you're reading this, thank you, and keep up the amazing work.