Silent Thoughts on a Chatter of Photos


It’s strange how old conversations assume new meanings with time. Four years ago, I had interviewed a photojournalist friend, who in conversation, had drifted into a rather fantastic thought. “Imagine a world that only has photos… a newspaper that only uses pictures to tell us the day’s events, not reams of black text.”

I don’t know where the irony lies. Is it in the fact that I’m using words to say that a world without words sounds like a relishing possibility? At the end of an insightful documentary where he spoke about his work, the great William Eggleston had said, “Whatever it is about pictures, photographs, it’s just about impossible to follow up with words. They don’t have anything to do with each other.” While that wry statement creates its own play of irony between words and images, I fi nd it more curious how my friend’s dream is playing out in the modern day.

The importance being given to photography in traditional media seems to be diminishing by the day. Last year, several photographers around the world lost their jobs. The assumption was that since everyone is a photographer, one does not really need ‘photographers’. This trend was later criticised by French newspaper Libération in a brilliant satirical issue that only had blank boxes in place of photographs, to protest and show support for photographers.

At the same time, my friend’s thought has come true. We are in a world that only has photos. It’s just that this visual barrage is happening in our hard drives, on our timelines. When I come back from a day’s shoot or a week’s travel, I sit down to look at the photos, and sometimes wonder what I can do with all these images, apart from the customary uploads to Instagram. Should I have shot less and felt more?

Strangely enough, this is something that every photographer ponders over, at some point of time or the other. Is the experience of making the picture taking over the experience of experiencing the moment? And then again, even if it is, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Last week, I met an old friend after a long time. I was looking forward to a night of conversation, a sea of stories, about the places I had travelled to in the months we hadn’t met. She seemed to know them all as my image uploads on social media had played the role of conversation. It’s a scary thought, if conversation dries up. But maybe today, conversation has a whole new meaning.