The Loss of Intent
Every time that I go back home, I make it a point to go through the family albums. My father shot most of the photographs in them—Pictures of me as a baby in Goa; pictures of me as a toddler in Kuwait, dressed up and posing in front of the Christmas tree; pictures of when I received my First Communion and Confirmation; and a few from our holiday trips. I am quite fond of some of these photographs, but what’s missing though are pictures of the in-between moments, ones where I am not dressed up or posing for the camera. That’s the thing about the family album, at least mine… I suppose they were never meant to give the viewer the entire story. Rather, they were meant to be a personal compilation of important occasions and milestones. However, by the time I turned 13, my dad had abruptly stopped photographing entirely, thereby missing out on several other milestones. So there’s a large chunk of my life that has gone undocumented.
But so much has changed in the last three years. Now, my parents, especially my mother, insists on photographing me. We could be out shopping or having lunch at a restaurant, and she would insist on making pictures throughout. It was all very amusing in the beginning, but I had my doubts about whether she was doing it for the right reasons. Maybe a part of her was. But I also know that her Facebook timeline and Whatsapp gallery are filled with such pictures of her friends and their children. I know that somewhere, she too, wants to project the same lifestyle and relationship with her child. And the cellphone has made that very, very easy, not just in its ability to quickly snap pictures, but also how fast it has become to instantly share photographs.
It’s nice that my mom wants to photograph me now. I suppose it’s her way of ensuring that she has pictures of this part of my life. These photographs may not have made their way to the traditional family album, because there was a certain sanctity to those images. They were not made out of convenience or possibility, but were moments that were handpicked. Nevertheless, my mom’s cellphone photographs are still going to exist, if only on her phone, or on a hard disk, or somewhere on the cloud. These are the albums of today. But there’s also another aspect to it… We are shooting at an alarming rate, just because we can. There seems to be hardly any intent, at least not in the majority of images that are being generated. What do the pictures that we make symbolise? Are we doing it for posterity, or for our own remembrance, or do we feel compelled to photograph and share instantly because that is what everyone is doing? I have been guilty of the latter.
Sometime last year, I decided to make more pictures of my time at home, including the people I spend this time with. I’ve been documenting my relationship with someone who I met last year. Let’s call him T. But before I met T, I was in a very unhealthy relationship. There was so much of pressure and tension that even when I had the tiniest inclination of photographing my partner, I would always question the decision. Something just didn’t feel right. Maybe it was both of us trying hard to project a certain image that would convince us about everything being okay. It’s been different with T. There is no pressure here, and that speaks a lot about the kind of relationship we share.
There’s a photograph that I shot last year of him laying flat on the bed, with Schmoo (my cat) nestled on his back. I was very surprised when she climbed over him and sat comfortably, as if she had known him all along. I knew I had to photograph the moment, and I had to do it fast before she jumped off. So I stood over them and shot the picture. This was my first photograph of T. Since then, I’ve made a few more pictures, but it is this particular image that I continue to go back to, month after month. At the time that I shot it, T and I hadn’t yet committed to one another. Yet, I knew after I had made the photograph that there was something special here. It was everything that I had ever wanted in a relationship. This is one of the few pictures that I am proud of, and would want to print and hold in my hands, so that years later, I can feel the same warmth emanating from the two beings who loved me, and who I loved back.
Maybe it’s time that we became more discerning of the moments that we want to photograph. I am not suggesting that you question yourself, everytime that you take out your phone to make a picture. And neither am I saying that a photograph be made with just one intent in mind—It could be for posterity, for yourself, or for someone else. Maybe doing the latter could change how you approach your subject, and could possibly amount to being as important to the person you’re photographing. So don’t let yourself be caught up with trends. Let your guard down, don’t be inhibited by any compulsion, and let the moment decide whether it’s worth capturing or not. If it is meant to be, you will certainly know.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Better Photography.Tags: