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Why I Am A Photographer – Lessons I Learnt From My Dad’s Old Camera And His Impatience

My dad's old camera had me curious about photography and even today that hasn't changed much. Here's exactly why I love being a photographer!

My dad’s old camera had me curious about photography and even today that hasn’t changed much. Here’s exactly why I love being a photographer!

My first brush with taking pictures was with my dad’s manual camera. It was a Panasonic that made me curious as a cat. Twenty-eight years later, I am still curious.

If you ask me what piqued my interest, it was the fact that it gave me a moment of what had passed. As if I could touch the photo and relive the moment. Dad indulged me. He would always give me a new film (it was not easy for him with three kids to raise) and taught me how to get a frame.

I learnt to trust my instincts

But he was quite impatient. His compositions were good but he rarely focussed more than a minute to think of what he clicked. He pretty much applied that to everything else. So I get that from him! I go after things I like, albeit in a more focused manner. And I have learned to be patient, at least with my camera. I can wait years for the right shot and right emotions, provided I have a keen subject.

And I learnt to go by instincts. Capturing candid emotions are difficult. Like Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

It is about how well you know a moment is going to come by and what you intend to make of it. Something extraordinary will transpire within your subject and its surroundings. That comes with time.

A great deal of experience in endorsement of human emotion and behavior in relative conditions needs to be allowed for such an instinct to develop. Yet it would not be complete without skill that is unique to the artist. And I have only started…

Unique is often what you need

Unique happens when we apply the most basic understanding, assumption, desire and vigour to a situation. A pumpkin might be ordinary to you, but may look like a potential jack-o’-lantern to me. This ability to see beyond the normal is unique. It may be acquired but gets limited with forced observation.

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Someone intrinsically bound to observe for something special in everything will become a brilliant observer. The observer whether he becomes an artist or not is quite subjective though. A lot also depends on how sensitive you are to people and their behavior.

There comes a time where you get so involved in your subject that you know at the onset about the next smile, smirk, wistful eyes or thought. It is a deep understanding that you have with your lens, the only spoiler could be the inanimate lens who must follow your timing!

The reason people look beautiful and real in candids is simple. They are real. In reality, people are good, humble, beautiful, sensitive, kind and thoughtful. It is the intensity that varies. For a photographer it is this very intensity that makes or breaks a frame, apart from light.

We all generally wear masks. A fake smile for an inquisitive colleague, a thoughtful grim smile for an erring child, a pout for a spouse or the soothing smile of a parent trying to reassure that everything will be alright. They all have a certain level of drama. Photos that capture these for what they are and make it worthwhile.

What photography taught me

A lot in life can be learnt with photography. Focus, Clarity, Intent and Patience being the biggest achievements. I would call patience more of a skill because in these times, it is scarce. Everybody wants to win. Everyone wants to shine. And everybody wants to own a piece of time.

People have stopped believing in legacy, because they believe they can create a better one. I don’t see a problem in this, unless it becomes a self-obsession to master and to control. The point is, you need to learn about patience and sensitivity not because it will give you success, but because it will allow you to create success even for those around you.

I have no ambition to become the wealthiest photographer. Neither do I crave to be the most well-known. I just wish my photography skills to be part of a friend’s happy moment, of a colleague who gets his son baptised. I just want them for my mother who blesses me every day, for the growing up years my daughter has, for the neighbour’s dog who loves the biscuits I get him. And sometimes for the beautiful nature that makes my travel worth every time.

I would love to quote Alfred Stieglitz, an American photographer and modern art promoter and who made photography an accepted art form, “Photography is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”

In the end, I’d just want to thank my dad for indulging in my curiosity with the camera!

Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Dear Zindagi 

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