My photographic journey and finding the meaning of it
Okay, so finally I sit down to write about my photographic journey so far. I feel it will help me to understand what I am going to do and what really photography means to me, after all these years. So it’s sort of speaking out loud!
When I started to take photography as a serious hobby around 2007 and got myself a DSLR I was uneducated and open minded. It all started with landscape photography and I was making nice and good photographs, not great ones. I felt my shy nature would be a severe obstacle in getting into other areas of photography that time. Over time though, I slowly moved to more and more people centric images and started to look outside of landscape genre. Being in India you get lots of subjects and subjects are more approachable too. I started making good photographs again with essential ingredients – sharp, great color or BW, moments etc.
But street photography in India has its negative side as well, part of which is due to flooding of digital cameras in our hand. These days acquiring a camera has become lot easier than ever and it has led many people to go out and shoot in street. If you are working and plan to continue having photography as a major hobby good luck to you because soon you will find yourself along with thousands of other enthusiasts who are eager to capture the same subject with or without you. I fail to see how this one to many relationship is going to help in future, it at all.
To work on more specific segment, I started to concentrate on documentary photography and I really felt I could finally connect with people and do some good via my photographs. My initial series lasted for few days or few weeks and I was able to come up with photographs which I was able to connect. After putting those series I got some great reactions and critiques as well. One point that stood firm out of all those critiques is, to be able to project such issues one needs to put significant time behind it. If a series is targeted for social networking sites or online blogs then in the beginning itself it becomes miniscule. The photographer should devote considerable time and energy behind it and work towards building a body of work which can be used for books, blogs, online magazines etc. One of the most important parameters in this genre is time and if you are not able to give it, you will always end of producing good and very good series, not exceptional ones. If needs a lot of hard work in any fields to shine and photography is not an exception.
I started working on a village in West Bengal and wanted to focus on multiple aspects in the final outcome not just poverty stricken photographs which have become so very common from my part of the world. It all worked out very nicely and I felt inspired and motivated. Halfway into the series, I sent my initial photographs to Delhi Photo Festival and was asked to join the workshop for a week. Finally it appeared to me that I will get a chance to meet like minded, show my work there and see where we are heading. But some things in life are too good to be true. Due to my work pressure I had to relocate again and I failed to attend the photo fest. After weeks of anticipation giving up literally broke my heart and I could not touch my camera for few months.
In those few months I stared reading a lot about photography and asked myself many questions. Why am I doing this? What is the need? What separates my body of work from others? Or do I really have a body of work? The more I asked myself, more I felt lost in thoughts. The background where I come from the practice of photography is very different there. Picture making like many other things in life has become a rat race and you are supposed to win competitions to showcase your talent. Showing your body of work does not matter that much since if you do that there are thousands who are there to mimic you. If a very different practice of photography I felt. Although these are not written in stone, but thoughts keep coming and doing away with such thoughts is never an easy decision.
One year back, I decided I will concentrate on social issues and look into documentary photography. Looking back at the decision I feel there is an immense scope in that area but when you have a job which you can’t do away with and running a family is your utmost preference, you cannot do justice to that cause. You need to go back to those people, work with those people, day after day with sheer passion to get a great series, no exception. When I left the ongoing series for my job I felt I let those people down whom I was photographing, I let myself down and I cannot continue it this way.
Right now I find myself in all sort of cross roads and constantly asking myself questions. But in these few months I have learned many things, I feel more oriented and hope to take photographs which are more personal to me and make more sense to me. If I can justify myself one photograph, I will be content and in that process surely I can find some goal. Alec Soth said in one of the interviews that you should try everything, every genre of photography before you settle for one. It was such a brilliant statement. Keeping an open mind is utmost importance while making images and I guess I will be an ever amateur due to my job. That’s not bad as you are not tied up and free to roam. Photography in last few months has become even more personal to me and I intend to keep it like that too!!