The Importance of Being a Participant


If you can appreciate, you can create. There is not a human being on the planet born without the faculty to appreciate. Thus, it is in all of us to be photographers and artists. Appreciation is not just about looking at a fine photograph and drawing a conclusion. It is about the experience of sharing in a pulsating, living habitat. It is about getting to know all those big and little things around us that make up our world, that let us have an identity and give us a home.

My wife once reminded me, not too long ago, that my home will not run with my appreciation (or my criticism) alone. I am, of course, describing the situation rather mildly. She was a lot more vociferous than that. It took me a while to see that she was, as usual, perfectly right. “Do something”, was the diktat. So I did some research. I made a mental list and then typed it onto my phone. I advocate doing things meticulously, in an orderly fashion. This is also the way I generally make pictures. It saves money and time in the long run.

“What’s taking you so long? Let me see…,” she said, peering at my phone. She deleted the note that had taken me thirty minutes to type. “I could have told you all this in twenty seconds. Why are you so slow?” The embarrassing bit is that if you knew what she wanted me to do, you would promptly agree with her. Had W H Davies (who I happen to appreciate a lot) been around that day, I would have been hard-pressed in stopping my wife from committing a heinous crime.

In any case, as Delhi Photo festival 2013 came to an end, I found myself appreciating a few familiar hobbyists from Mumbai. Their participation was absolute. They were there for every talk, book launch, slideshow, and gallery opening, from morning to night. DPF was a great opportunity to learn, see pictures, interact with the masters, and draw conclusions. For those of you who could not make it, you really missed something.

Of course, there is always a next time. But let us not take too much solace in ‘next times’. Barely a few years ago, forums of this nature did not exist in India. So make it a point to be participative. Support and attend festivals, expositions, lectures, and exhibitions. Participate in contests. Organise some of your own. There is always something to learn.

Juan Cruz Rabaglia, one of the incredible photographers we have featured in this issue advises, “It takes action to shoot action.” It could not have been put across in a better way.

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