The Elephant in the Room


In today’s times of environmental sensitivity, race and gender consciousness, and some level of intellectual enlightenment, elephants should never be in rooms of any sort, metaphorically or otherwise. But there are certainly issues to be discussed, questions to be answered, and points to ponder… Which is what this issue is all about.

I jumped at the chance to reply to one particular question when it was put forth to us on Facebook, specifically for this edition. “Is photography a viable life choice as a career?” After all, being Chief Editor allows me some insight into the goings-on in the world of photography. I must admit to being somewhat amused by the question though. Must a life choice be deemed viable before it becomes acceptable? If it indeed is a life choice, will simply having a career in it suffice? Or on the other hand, will it matter all that much if a career in it does not work out? If there is no viability in photography as a career, would it cease to be a viable life choice? But I get the gist of the question.

To my surprise, each time I put my thoughts down on paper, it did not sound quite right. Perhaps, I should have taken Douglas Adams’ word (or rather, number) for it, and simply put down ‘42’, which is his response to “the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.”

I answered the question (the one on photography) in my own way, the short version of which is, “Yes. No. Maybe.” You can read the long form inside, but 42 is perfectly apt too. Computer programmers will recognise that the ASCII code 42 (Alt + 4 + 2 on the number pad of the keyboard) produces an asterisk, or ‘*’, a wildcard symbol that denotes a set of unknown characters or variables. It is also the glyph that writers use as a reference mark, to point out that there is an omission (or that there is something more), or to blank out colourful expletives. As I said, perfectly apt.

Speaking of numbers, this is Better Photography’s 23rd Anniversary, our 265th issue. Not a single issue has been missed in the last 22 years, since we began publishing. So far, we have interviewed 691 photographers, or featured them in depth. Of these, 160 greats are legendary, extremely significant to the world of photography, including the biggest names you can think of (Fred Herzog, in this issue). We have reviewed and tested 1213 cameras, lenses and accessories (including film and a lot of analogue gear). We have featured close to 6000 photographers in various ways, through opinions, features, or articles written by them or on them. We have had over 17,200 participants in workshops conducted by us, all over India. Speaking of the magazine, we are now very close to having produced 40,000 pages of content. We estimate that we have spread the joy of photography to 8,00,000 people, through the print edition of the magazine, of which we have printed approximately 75,00,000 copies. And a four-month old secondhand copy still commands a price of Rs. 50.

Here’s to you, our readers. May the questions pour in, and may we discover answers together.

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