I tend to write a lot. I have been writing nearly every day for the past decade, about my life, the people around me and the future. I have gone through more than a couple dozen journals along the way, each with its own unique title. And the title usually is an accurate reflection of my state of mind at that moment. This time, I titled my journal, ‘Rediscovering photography’.
In between the chaos of shooting weddings, delivering to clients, chasing up on album designers, etc, it becomes very easy to forget to do any personal work. We get caught up in our commercial work and continue with it without stopping to think why we chose to be a photographer in the first place. And I did wonder. I wondered why I am a photographer. What is the purpose of photography? In this era of mobile phone cameras, Google Glass and Instagram, where do we, as photographers, fit in?
All these questions slowly built up in my head, prompting me to rethink photography, the future and my direction in life. Naturally, I read a lot and pored over a lot of photography work by peers, the greats and emerging artists, if only to see the kind of work that people were doing. I wanted new ideas for projects. New subjects for photoshoots. I wanted something new.
Photography gave me joy when I captured a point of view that nobody else had, showing my own perspective on life and the world around me. It led me to hone my skills and understand myself. It provided me with those little thrills in life make life worth living. After a long time, I felt this unique thrill when I went to watch the wall of death at Numaish. It was there that I realized that mystery keeps life exciting. Not knowing the magic behind something and our curiosity to discover it keeps us alive and kicking. Knowing everything is mundane. As I once read in the “The Most Dangerous Game”, perfection is boredom.
I had been reading the AMA for Intel CEO on reddit and came across a couple of valuable quotes – “There is an over all trend in computing that has been going on for 30+ years.. that computing is becoming smaller…. lighter… more portable…. and more and more connected.. think about it.. it went from main frames to desktops to laptops to tablets and phones…. it won’t stop there… everyone who thinks it will stop is wrong.. it just keeps going down that curve.. driven by Moore’s law…”
“we wanted the world of computing to stop at PC’s…and the world.. as it never does… didn’t stop innovating.. The new CEO of Microsoft Satya said it well the other day… our industry does not respect tradition, it respects innovation…. i think he was 100% right.. and it’s why we missed the mobile move..”
The new world doesn’t respect tradition, it respects innovation. And in this ever changing world (where a 4 year old 50 employee company is worth $19 billion and about a decade and a half ago, Hotmail being valued at $400 millions surprised us), do we, as photographers, still have a place? What is our contribution to the future of mankind? What are we doing to constantly innovate in our art? How do we know that we will not be obsolete tomorrow? It is a scary thought in itself.
During this period of contemplation, my car had gone for servicing and I was forced to walk. This forced freedom was wonderful. I always liked walking, but the pollution refrained me from walking too much. Walking around, observing the crowd, it occurred to me that every single person that I had walked past had their own crisis and problems in life. They were also exploring the meaning of life and some probably too busy trying to feed themselves that they didn’t have the luxury of time to think. I felt grateful. Grateful that my life was comfortable enough for me think above and beyond the bare necessities. Come what may, I would (most likely) be able to afford to eat 3 meals a day. Some of these couldn’t. I learnt from them. They probably didn’t even notice me. I wanted to know more about them – the cause of their worries & joys, why they did what they did, what their motivation in life was, etc, but alas, I never had the courage to do it. In some ways, I guess I was hoping they could help me answer my own questions and solve my dilemma in life with their answers. But they probably thought the same about me. Eitherway, we’ll never know.
In the process of this rediscovery mission, I encountered a lot of things and went to a lot of places. I spend time pondering while walking on the roads, while sipping chai in simple cafes, while drinking filter coffee at the Taj Mahal hotel, while drinking rum in dingy bars, while leering at pedestrians waiting to cross the road and so on.
In some way, my search for the meaning of photography was an answer by itself. In my extended walks, I came across lots of interesting scenes that I captured and complied for this blog post. These photographs represent my search for an idea and the meaning of photography. In some way, they are a documentation of my journey from feeling trapped to escaping.
To conclude my search for the meaning of photography, I came up with the following line – “Good photography should build intrigue, stoke curiosity, encourage intellectual thought, evoke emotions, create conversations and enlighten the world.”
Currently listening to – Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung