Many Are Called but Few Choose to Listen

While working at my internship at DemandMedia, I met this man by the name of Bailey who worked in the lobby. He is an African-American male in his mid-forties and always wore a well-pressed grey suit and red tie–perfect for his job of greeting guests and assisting whenever he could. His nose carried a pair of circular glasses, which were slightly thick which made his eyes appear larger than they truly were. He also had a shaven head on top, with enough hair to keep him looking professional.

Whenever I entered work, Bailey would always greet me with a cordial, “Good morning sir,” never forgetting to call me sir. I could tell in his voice that his words were genuine, especially when directed toward me.

Over the course of the period that I interned at Demand Media, I would always see him 3 times a week, all when I got in at noon and when I left at five. It then started to become my ritual to just make small chat with him whenever I would see him–while others would simply choose to ignore him and go about their daily lives. We made small chat about typical things like the weather, how work was going, and how my studies were faring as well.

Before I knew it, my final day came and I told him of the news. By then we had built up a quite friendly relationship with one another, and Bailey asked me of my future plans. I told him how I was going to start working at AKMG, an online advertising agency which happened to be on Third Street (Demand Media is on Second Street). I then suddenly felt compelled to tell him about my interest in photography and how I was planning on spending more of my free time to pursue it.

I then recalled some of the black and white 4×6 photos that I had with me in my backpack, and took it out. I told him of my trip in Europe and proceeded to show him images from my trips in Europe, including pictures of the Eiffel Tower, St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican, as well as other images from Korea. His eyes grew as large as dinner plates, and he held the images in his callused hands with sincerity and delicacy. I then told him if he was interested in my images, he should check out my website: I then took an image, flipped it, and wrote the address on the back.

As Bailey was still gazing over my images–eyes darting back and forth as if he was trying to figure out which image he preferred the most, I told him, “Here, these are for you.” While sitting down he then slowly looked up at me and then quickly shot his head away while shaking his head and saying, “Oh no sir I could never take these–they are much too expensive and valuable.” I then replied and told him, “No–take these. This is my present from me to you.” After him refusing for a bit more, I then told him in a stern voice, “If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me.” He then quickly paused, shuffled his feet on the ground and then repeated what I said to himself, “…If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me” I then stacked up the photos and then handed them to him, signaling to him to take it. He then slowly accepted the images–still full of reservation.

I then felt the feeling of overflowing joy and emotion in the air and then I suddenly felt a transformation in Bailey’s face and attitude. He lowered his voice a bit and I saw his true character come out–not just the “front-stage” behavior that he was so used to giving all of the other lobby guests. With the words of a sage he told me of how what I was doing with my photography was truly a beautiful thing and that it was amazing how I was pursuing my true talents and dreams. Bailey then told me of a quote that he heard the week before which he really loved, “Many are called but few choose to listen.” He slowly repeated the words to himself several times, alternating a few words here and there as he admitted to me that he didn’t quite remember the quote. He told me that I was common in the sense that I was one of the many people who were called to be great in life, but amazing in the sense that I let myself be chosen to achieve that greatness.

As Bailey was telling me these words of wisdom, he also told me not to concentrate on his voice, but “the voice behind the voice.” He then held up a piece of tissue to illustrate his point. “Don’t listen to me, but the voice behind my voice. I am nothing merely but a vessel in which words are flowing out of. In-fact, who I am doesn’t really matter–but rather it is my message that counts. Don’t forget about your dream and strive to pursue it.”

I was truly taken-back from these words of wisdom. Somebody that I first perceived as an uneducated male whose potential in life amounted to being a lobby host was truly a wise-man in disguise. I was thoroughly impressed by his insight and clarity when it came to life and was moved with emotion. His words reverberated with me so much that I felt compelled to write this blog post after having nearly a year-long hiatus without writing.

So as you go throughout your day, your week, and the rest of your life– don’t forget that inspiration, genius, or greatness is not something that is only given to a select few. Rather, it calls all of us. It simply depends on whether we choose to listen.


100 Things I Have Learned About Photography

Written: 10-14-09

A list that I wrote while traveling in Europe about 100 tips/things I have learned about photography that I would like to share with others:

1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.
2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
4. Photo editing is an art in itself
5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody.
7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
8. Go outside and shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
10. Film isn’t better than digital.
11. Digital isn’t better than film.
12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.
13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos.
14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
16. Girls dig photographers.
17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy”
18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”.
19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything.
20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.
26. Tape up any logos on your camera with black gaffers tape- it brings a lot less attention to you.
27. Always underexpose by 2/3rds of a stop when shooting in broad daylight.
28. The more photos you take, the better you get.
29. Don’t be afraid to take several photos of the same scene at different exposures, angles, or apertures.
30. Only show your best photos.
31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera.
32. Join an online photography forum.
33. Critique the works of others.
34. Think before you shoot.
35. A good photo shouldn’t require explanation (although background information often adds to an image). *
36. Alcohol and photography do not mix well.
37. Draw inspiration from other photographers but never worship them.
38. Grain is beautiful.
39. Ditch the photo backpack and get a messenger bag. It makes getting your lenses and camera a whole lot easier.
40. Simplicity is key.
41. The definition of photography is: “painting with light.” Use light in your favor.
42. Find your style of photography and stick with it.
43. Having a second monitor is the best thing ever for photo processing.
44. Silver EFEX pro is the best b/w converter.
45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.
46. Never let photography get in the way of enjoying life.
47. Don’t pamper your camera. Use and abuse it.
48. Take straight photos.
49. Shoot with confidence.
50. Photography and juxtaposition are best friends.
51. Print out your photos big. They will make you happy.
52. Give your photos to friends.
53. Give them to strangers.
54. Don’t forget to frame them.
55. Costco prints are cheap and look great.
56. Go out and take photos with (a) friend(s).
57. Join a photo club or start one for yourself.
58. Photos make great presents.
59. Taking photos of strangers is thrilling.
60. Candid>Posed.
61. Natural light is the best light.
62. 35mm (on full frame) is the best “walk-around” focal length.
63. Don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO when necessary.
64. You don’t need to always bring a tripod with you everywhere you go (hell, I don’t even own one).
65. It is always better to underexpose than overexpose.
66. Shooting photos of homeless people in an attempt to be “artsy” is exploitation.
67. You will find the best photo opportunities in the least likely situations.
68. Photos are always more interesting with the human element included.
69. You can’t “photoshop” bad images into good ones.
70. Nowadays everybody is a photographer.
71. You don’t need to fly to Paris to get good photos; the best photo opportunities are in your backyard.
72. People with DSLRS who shoot portraits with their grip pointed downwards look like morons.
73. Cameras as tools, not toys.
74. In terms of composition, photography and painting aren’t much different.
75. Photography isn’t a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.
76. Make photos, not excuses.
77. Be original in your photography. Don’t try to copy the style of others.
78. The best photographs tell stories that begs the viewer for more.
79. Any cameras but black ones draw too much attention.
80. The more gear you carry around with you the less you will enjoy photography.
81. Good self-portraits are harder to take than they seem.
82. Laughter always draws out peoples’ true character in a photograph.
83. Don’t look suspicious when taking photos- blend in with the environment.
84. Landscape photography can become dull after a while.
85. Have fun while taking photos.
86. Never delete any of your photos.
87. Be respectful when taking photos of people or places.
88. When taking candid photos of people in the street, it is easier to use a wide-angle than a telephoto lens.
89. Travel and photography are the perfect pair.
90. Learn how to read a histogram.
91. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one.
92. Don’t be afraid to take photos in the rain.
93. Learn how to enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it.
94. Never take photos on an empty stomach.
95. You will discover a lot about yourself through your photography.
96. Never hoard your photographic insight- share it with the world.
97. Never stop taking photos
98. Photography is more than simply taking photos, it is a philosophy of life
99. Capture the decisive moment
100. Write your own list.

UCLA Sociology Commencement Speech

Hey all,

So as you may/may not know, I recently graduated with a B.A. in Sociology at UCLA. Here is a speech that I submitted to be a student speaker at the Sociology graduation, but it was not accepted. However, I would like to share it with you guys regardless:

“Voices of the Class”—Sociology 2010 Graduation Speech

I don’t think that anybody starts as a sociology major. Us sociology majors seem to always stray from one major to the next until we end up with the best major, which is sociology. I remember starting off as a biology major my freshman year, because I was forced by my parents to become a prestigious doctor or something like that. The day that I realized I shouldn’t go down the pre-med route I remember calling my mom and telling me that I was going to switch to Sociology—the study of society or something like that. You can imagine how that went.

I then remember sitting in my first Sociology 1 class in which I was introduced to the wonderful world of sociology which caused me to question everything that I have been socialized into believing. It gave me the power and inspiration to assert myself as an individual, rather than letting social conventions define me. It inspired me to go out in the world and make a difference, and to do what I truly wanted to do, rather than what my parents or anybody else wanted or expected to do.

There have been many instances in which I have been criticized or questioned for being a sociology major. Sociology? What are you going to do with that major? Become a teacher or a social worker? How do you expect to feed your family in the future?

I have heard the following quote from a fellow sociology major: “A sociologist is someone who, when a beautiful woman enters the room and everybody looks at her, looks at everyone.” Sociology is a major which teaches us to evaluate the ways in which we present ourselves to others, how we interact with others individually and through a group. It teaches us to analyze and be critical of what we are told by others, whether it be through facts or statistics. We learn to question the structure of the family—and whether human nature is more nature or nurture. We learn to appreciate the beauty of everyday life.

Through the guidance of many of my teachers and mentors at UCLA and in the Sociology department I have been able to participate in so many different opportunities. Through Professor Emerson and Rachel Fretz’s Sociology Immersion Program I have learned to conduct ethnographic research and learning how to appreciate “members meanings.” The graduate students in the sociology department have given me great grad school advice, and told me what it is to truly be a sociologist. Professor Jack Katz gave me the opportunity to help assist him with his research, in which I learned how important it was to be organized, self-driven, as well as professional with my work. I have always looked up to Terri Anderson as my personal mentor, and now she is my faculty mentor for a USIE class that I am teaching which is titled: “Sociology of Facebook and Online Social Networks.”  We truly have one of the most prestigious Sociology programs in the world, which is defined by the professors and teachers whom teach and guide us.

Sociology is not about being passive, it’s about doing. We cannot call ourselves “social scientists” while studying society through a microscope. However we must do sociology through interacting with others and using what we learned to critique and hopefully improve society. I will now share the quote that got me into college and will use it as a springboard as I graduate: As Ghandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Strength in Disability

The other day I went to mass at the University Catholic Center (the Catholic church next to UCLA). During the end of mass I took the communion, headed back to my seat and did a short prayer and opened my eyes. Across from me I saw a male student who was waiting in line to get the communion in a wheelchair.

While he was in line, he was steadily wheeling himself forward closer to receive the Body of Christ. When he was second in line, I saw him put his hands on top of one another–open to receive the communion. Once the person in front of him left, I saw him thrust his body forward which propelled his wheelchair close enough to the priest who was dispersing the communion. He then received it, put it into his mouth, and then wheeled himself back to his chair.

It was a moment which was so beautiful that I felt chills go up my spine. To see my fellow peer show his strength over his disability was quite an eye-opening experience. In the beginning of mass he was sitting in the row from the opposite of me, and I remember studying him more out of curiosity than impoliteness. I saw his thin legs–most likely from the fact that he had not used his legs in many years.

We are all blessed with strengths and weaknesses. It is merely a matter of what we choose to do with our life’s circumstances which show our true inner-strength.