My first memory, in front of the camera, was when my father asked me to smile for him. Despite being a shy kid, who didn’t know how to smile for the camera, I tried my best to show my bunny teeth. Back in the day, my father had a keen interest in photography. His muse was my mum, who looked (still looks) so beautiful, capturing her in front of every iconic monument or place of interest. He eventually graduated to his three kids, capturing our childhood, and sealing it in film. My father dabbled in candid photography — capturing his subjects (us) in various stages of REM sleep, timed family portraits (including the last minute dash to make it to the photograph), and prop dressing (sports days, play dressing, and face painting with markers). On his work trips, he captured science museums, colleagues, and landscapes. The old albums are a tearjerker. I can’t seem to turn the pages without getting moist-eyed. The prints have aged, some eaten by fungus, and yet what remains — is a time capsule — to go back into the past.
If my father had to write this post, he would have started with the history of the lens and how photography has evolved over the years. He’d have started with dates, events, and names of people or how it revolutionised the way we capture what’s around us. And given an opportunity, he would have tried to get some Physics into it. I’m tempted to take a similar route — without getting too technical.
I don’t remember when I got my first camera, but I do remember wondering, why did it take so long? I was probably in my early twenties and it would soon become redundant, in five years time or so, with the cellphone transforming into smartphone. Suddenly, photography was the coolest craze. Everyone was taking photographs — with family, with friends, or themselves (with/in the mirror). My first instinct was to stay away from it all. I remember it bothering me. The emotion seemed to have been lost with the rise of narcissism. The attempt to capture every ‘tiny‘ instant in time, however insignificant it may be, was on the rise.
With the ‘invention’, if one can call it an invention of sorts, of the selfie, photographs were transformed forever. Yesterday, I saw a young girl (I was tempted to believe she was a blogger), armed with her camera (on selfie mode) and tripod, find isolated spots (in a crowded park) to click of herself. It was strange to see a person posing for an unmanned camera. Maybe, I’m living in another epoch.
But, what bothers me the most, is the fact that I might be slowly drawn to the other side. Ever since, I’ve started blogging about travel, I have an urge to capture everything that looks beautiful or shines (Seoul Lantern Festival). Almost every insignificant detail. We’re just back from Jeju, and I have around 700 odd photographs, of our trip, on my phone alone. Have I succumbed to the fantasy and illusion of the virtual world? Is wonderland truly trapped in our phones or cameras or memory banks or blogs? How real is any of it? Will we ever have the courage to unplug ourselves from our devices or smartphones and wake up and smell the coffee? Or will we fall for anything that shines and forget to live the moment — because we were too busy capturing it?
In a world and a life that moves so fast, photography just makes the sound go out and it makes you stop and take a pause. Photography calms me.
I love photography, I love food, and I love traveling, and to put those three things together would just be the ultimate dream.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
Over the last few millennia we’ve invented a series of technologies – from the alphabet to the scroll to the codex, the printing press, photography, the computer, the smartphone – that have made it progressively easier and easier for us to externalize our memories, for us to essentially outsource this fundamental human capacity.