The Guardian recently asked several famous writers to share their Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (part one, part two). Applicable to other creative endeavors:

Anne Enright:
Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

Geoff Dyer:
Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

Richard Ford:
Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself.
Don’t take any shit if you can ­possibly help it.

David Hare:
Write only when you have something to say.
Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome.
Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.

PD James:
Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

Colm Tóibín:
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Ian Rankin:
Get lucky.
Stay lucky.


ahh summer




All photos © Hee Jin Kang



Don’t you have that one friend who’s an artist and you sometimes wonder, how does this person pay her bills?  You’ve known her for several years, consider her a “friend” and not an acquaintance, you’ve been to her apartment, a small but nice space somewhere in Brooklyn probably, maybe she has an iPhone, a refined collection of art books, obscure DVDs and some decent furniture.  When you go to parties together, she usually turns up in Margiela, and when the conversation with strangers turns to “so what do you do for a living?”, your friend starts to answer and your ears prick up, you think, ooo maybe I’ll finally find out how she makes ends meet, but she replies “I’m an artist (or painter, or photographer, or whatever)” and you think, drat that doesn’t tell me anything really!

I know artists who have all sorts of different day jobs – they work at galleries, bars, clothing stores; they assist other artists or are personal assistants; they have real serious jobs as designers/editors/producers in museums, advertising agencies, magazines; they teach; they work in non-profit; they temp.  Some artists are embarrassed to utter the words “day job” while others are alright with it.

Holland Cotter’s piece in the NYTimes, “The Boom is Over. Long Live the Art!” inspired this post, in particular these lines:

It’s day-job time again in America, and that’s O.K. Artists have always had them — van Gogh the preacher, Pollock the busboy, Henry Darger the janitor — and will again. The trick is to try to make them an energy source, not a chore.

Did you hear that, people? It’s OK to have a day job!  Glad to hear it.

on sandy’s deli


I took my last Sandy’s Deli picture sometime in the summer of 2005.  Life was chaotic – my dad was in the hospital with an unknown ailment and I was working at the store with my mother, while unpaid tax bills kept piling up.  One afternoon a very small fire broke out due to some bad wiring, and a band of firemen came trudging through with their bulky gear, making the store (and me) feel little.  Prior to our Engine Co. rescue, my mother and I were running back and forth, she this way, me that way, like cartoon characters.  This life felt uncertain and unsustainable.  Something, it seemed, needed to change.

When things normalized, my parents decided to sell Sandy’s Deli.  A few days later, the store and all the merchandise were sold. The whole shebang, minus the personal affects, just like that.  I had started to feel like my photo project was coming to an end anyway.  Suddenly, the decision was made for me.

Last week, in a borrowed car, F. and I drove along the L-train route, exploring East Williamsburg and Bushwick.  Somewhere along the way, I realized we were only a few blocks away from Sandy’s Deli.  As we approached the store, F. said he recognized it right away from one of my photos.  We drove past really slowly, trying to get a good look.  Several customers were inside.  I would have stopped the car but there wasn’t any parking.  Peering through the windows, I just couldn’t believe I spent all that time in that space taking all those pictures.  It wasn’t the same place anymore.

© Hee Jin Kang



Everyone is up for some self-reflection this time of year. Thinking back over the last 12 months, making new resolutions or recycling old ones.

Test your new year Authentic Happiness Inventory with these UPenn Positive Psychology Center’s questionnaires. I kind of love these kinds of tests – forced reflection – I try to complete them very quickly without too much second-guessing.

How optimistic, grateful, compassionate are you?

(h/t to Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful blog The Happiness Project)

good-bye 2008


Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

– excerpt “In Memoriam (Ring Out, Wild Bells)” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Happy New Year to everyone!

bear with me


As you can see, I’m trying to transition back into the photo fold and step away from the heady mania that was this year’s elections… and I’m doing a bad job of it.  So in the meantime, I’m trying to write posts that deal with a little of both – politics and photography – politicography.  Or something like that.

Also, have you seen Damon Winter’s coverage of Obama’s campaign?  The Denver Post has a selection here.  Very great.



I dropped in on the Photo.Book.Now meet-up at the New Museum last night. Certainly nice to see familiar faces and make new acquaintances. But there was something not right with me; I just wasn’t feeling it.  Sometimes those kinds of industry events put me off. Do you ever feel like that? Why have I been so jazzed up to grip and grin at Obama events but not so much at photo ones? Is that some kind of (bad) sign? This election has so completely taken over my mind that it’s hard for me to put anything else in perspective. Suddenly everything seems do or die. Black or white. Right or wrong. Even cocktail parties.

I must try harder next time.

no more worries


All flustered, I arrived at the Anderson Center Saturday evening. Flight delays, of course (thanks to American Airlines). Plus I forgot to print out a map of the area before leaving home and also neglected to charge my cellphone the night before (was I willing myself to get lost?). With only the Alamo guy’s directions at hand “take the 55 East to the 52 South.” Umm… “then there should be some signs to Red Wing”. OK! The result? Me driving around in circles in my white rental car on Highway 61 with F. on the phone trying to direct me from his googled map while my cellphone kept beeping that I was running out of juice. “Are you at the intersection of 61 and Highway 19?” Yes I am! Around and around. Only to discover I was at the intersection of 61 and County Road 19. Need to drive a little further to hit Highway 19. Woops.

No matter. When I enter the residence, I immediately feel at home here. The building and grounds are beautifully restored. The whole place is photogenic.

© Hee Jin Kang 2008

Then the worries kick in.

I worry about my equipment. Did I bring the right gear? Did I bring enough? And then I decide to let those kinds of stresses go. I just have to work with what I have. My 4×5. My little (oft unreliable) Contax T2. And a digital for snaps. That’s it. Vincent Laforet I am not, though I am duly impressed (via Shoot the Blog).

I worry about the enforced creativity inherent in doing artist residencies. Then I let that go too. I’m a resourceful girl, I can figure something out if the right kind of inspiration doesn’t strike, whatever that may be. If nothing else, there are nice bike paths here, free bikes for our use, a cook who takes care of meals, a stocked fridge, a new town, a state fair, cows, butterflies, red squirrels, turtles.

I worry about my natural inclination against adventurousness. I like to try new things but sometimes it’s a struggle to get out of my comfort zone. Do I lack curiosity? Am I afraid of what’s beyond? Or just plain lazy? I have to let all that go too. Enjoy the process and the experience.

Good pictures might come from this trip but they might not. Just have to let go…

cohesion kang


When I was at the Royal College, I was making photographs like this:

© Hee Jin Kang

I was working almost exclusively in a studio, using strobes and aided by a technician. The photographs I made were constructed (rather than found) and mostly about expressions of desire.

Now back in New York and out of the confines/comforts of grad school, I’m focusing more on personal projects, mainly about family and the familiar. And I’m finding pictures in the real world rather than constructing them. I’ve moved so far away from the work I was making in graduate school that I wonder if it has any cohesion.

Sometimes I make a picture that echoes my older work:

© Hee Jin Kang

Or does it?

Ultimately I’d like to redo my portfolio and shuffle all the imagery together, not edited by projects per se. It’s more difficult than I imagined. There is definitely some kind of connective tissue throughout all my photographs but pinpointing it is not so easy.