The Meaning of Practice


“The science of it all is only as good as our vision for what we wish to achieve.” K Madhavan Pillai

You may have heard from some veteran photographers that the coming of digital cameras has made us lazy… that the process of learning is no longer available to us, or even deemed important. I believe that digital technology has unshackled us from an arduous learning curve just to make a correct exposure. It has offered us a variety of easy choices that give instant results.

For those who wish to practise photography seriously, the value of having too many choices is debatable. I have always maintained that constraints are the key to creativity. When was the last time you used the various Scene modes of your compact camera? Or experimented with the White Balance settings of your DSLR? In all probability, you simply set everything to Auto. When you have choices, you end up being more comfortable if you did not have to choose in the first place.

As practitioners, comfort is a very dangerous thing. With resources in plenty, we tend to believe that any problem is easily solvable and, therefore, our solutions are rarely efficient. Waste, in photography, as it is in real life, is a problem of abundance… of being able to afford more than we can consume… of releasing the shutter unnecessarily… just because digital technology conveniently allows us to do so. The true worth of a choice is in making an informed, deliberate decision, with the knowledge of all the reasons and in anticipation of a certain outcome.

Digital photography allows us the freedom to make pictures right from the moment we buy a camera. All we need is a subject to explore… one that we are in love with… a muse. With a muse, the photographs, however technically flawed, are almost sure to be interesting because our perspectives are bound to be unique.

I do not mean to say that technicalities are unnecessary. But as long as we know of the possibilities, they are incidental to what we wish to create. I believe that the science of it all is only as good as our vision for what we wish to achieve. In the end, perfection is essential for any science. And well thought out practice is, of course, essential for perfection.

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, Editorial, perfection, july 2012, Digital Photography, Practice, Muse, Problem of abundance, Subject to explore