Duality of Being a Photographer and Human


Is it possible to fulfill the duality of being both a photographer and a human, while at the job?

Answer by: Saumya Khandelwal, Photojournalist

This question is particularly targeted towards photojournalism. Being a photographer means that one has to be trained to observe a situation for its actuality and mis-en-scene, and release the shutter at the moment when natural human instinct is to respond with shock, laughter, fear, or anger. Having a different response than what is instinctive, does not necessarily mean that one stops being human.

It’s also very natural to stop having extreme responses to extreme situations, especially when one sees them on a regular basis. Over time, some people internalise it, and yet, others might become detached or choose to act. You see that in the careers of renowned photographers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They then go on to set up NGOs to help causes close to their heart.

But what is more important—to have a good image or a clear conscience?

I know that it’s easier said than done, because I have worked as a photojournalist in a national daily and an international wire agency—environments which are highly competitive. In a situation where a photographer is the only one present, one has the choice to help, but in the presence of other photographers, the editorial pressures are high. One cannot afford to return to the photo editor without an image, after being present in the moment with the other photographers from competing media houses. You will be told, “That is not what you were hired for!”

And in such situations, when one finds photographers who continue to be sensitive and responsible, one must know that it’s indeed an artist one has encountered. After all, what is photography without the sensitivity of the one who photographs?

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Better Photography.