The Art of Saying Goodbye


Photographs are like goodbye notes. We press the shutter and bid farewell to the moment that’s elapsed. But they are greetings as well. For when we look at what’s gone wistfully, we also say hello to the new moment that’s arrived. It’s an irony, a contradiction, like much of photography, that I grapple with, every time life changes.

But change is a function of time. After all, isn’t the transition between seconds, or that between fractions of, inevitable? It is this transition and the momentousness, both positive and negative, of watching life unfold, that drives us to make images in the first place.

Change urges us to think. We look at the future and yet, relive, with a deep sense of longing, all that has gone by. A loved one goes away, an idol passes the baton. When Sachin Tendulkar will walk out to bat one last time, a country in denial will face this some conundrum. Every time an era comes to an end, in our personal lives or otherwise, we are thrown into the ocean, forced to swim.

It is this ocean of images that a lot of practising photographers look at with skepticism. As people who have seen tectonic shifts in technology that determine the way we make and see photos, there is bound to be concern. It’s like a series of breakups, perhaps. But the love never wavers. It shouldn’t. And even if it does, life doesn’t. When faced with a drastic change of path, we all struggle. There is confusion. Clutter. Some cobwebs in our head. But keep going, keep seeing, keep making pictures.

I write this last line while waist-deep in seawater, wondering whether the sea of images that clog the online space and our offline hard drives are anything similar to this Goan sea wave that splashes precariously close to my camera. Even though the ocean is unending, we do explore to find its delights. The water is loud, vociferous and full of anarchy. But pause and ponder and you will realise that it’s shockingly, almost touchingly, silent. It’s a silent path we are all on, and change should only make it stronger.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Better Photography.