Photography is New Awakenings


Here is an interesting exercise that I have spoken of in the past within these pages, but one that is perfectly apt for this issue. While it can be done at any point, it works particularly well at the start of a new year. To begin with, buy yourself a small, pocketable diary or notebook to write in. The act of putting pen to paper not only cements your seriousness, but is also a subtle reminder that all progress involves thought and action, process and patience. Cellphones or tablets are avoidable for this exercise.

At the top of the first page, write down ‘To me, photography is…’. On the rest of the page and across the next few pages, complete the sentence with as many of your own, personal definitions of photography that you can think of, within exactly five minutes, each definition being no more than five words… Shorter the better. The only other rule is to be truthful with yourself, without judging whether your definitions you pen down are mundane, generic, or profound. In those five minutes, if you have not been able to put down at least twenty definitions, you need to start over.

To me, photography is about family and friends. Photography is faces. Photography is a frame around a space. Photography is light. Photography is the exploration of detail. Photography is math equations. Photography is the expression of an impression. Photography is the space between breaths. Photography is silence. Photography is finding great conversation. Photography is discovering rhetoric. Photography is here and now. Photography is time and space interchanged. Photography is a place with no names. Photography is a window to worlds. Photography is a communion with oneself. Photography is riyaaz. Photography is the means to an end. Photography is about making a difference. Photography is new awakenings. Photography is a torrid love affair.

Once you have your definitions written down, turn the page. On the left side of your notebook, identify and list down those definitions that you currently put into practice, in some way or the other, when you make pictures. On the right, write down the remaining definitions. And read them all carefully. The page on the left will be about the type of photographer you are at the moment. In all probability, the page on the right will tell you about the kind of photographer you aspire to be. It would be interesting to see how many definitions fall on either side, and perhaps, that might tell you something about yourself too. There is no right or wrong answer in all of this. After this exercise, you may find yourself with a new sense of direction. At the very least, you will have made a great start with your new notebook for penning down your thoughts in the year ahead.

My very best for a Happy New Year. May it be filled with all the joys that photography can bring.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Better Photography.