Why The Unattainable Is Good For You

“Only those who are mad know of the joy of madness.” - K Madhavan Pillai

“Only those who are mad know of the joy of madness.” – K Madhavan Pillai

Have you ever noticed that the ‘ideal’ camera usually happens to be out of your budget? You begin by convincing yourself that the next camera will surely change the way you make pictures. After all, the new camera can do things that your existing camera just cannot! Unfortunately, any thrill we derive from satisfying these camera ‘needs’ usually works out to be momentary. And once again, we begin lusting after the next ‘pathbreaking’ camera.

Isn’t it odd that we never seem to lust over affordable cameras? If it were easy to buy one that fits our purpose, we discover ways of rationalising why it is not as good as the one that is just out of our budget. Especially nowadays, younger photographers often mistake desire for need. But then again, this is how most of us are wired. I believe that this is what makes us human. It gives us a reason to reach out and do just a little bit better, or save more, or move one step further in life.

The one striking difference between an average photographer and an excellent one is that an excellent photographer lusts for a subject, or a concept, or the process of making a picture. Any pining desire is usually left to things that we are truly passionate about. Be it for cameras or for making a picture, it is difficult to yearn for more than a certain amount because we find it difficult to be passionate about more than one thing at a time. How many things can we really be passionate about, in a lifetime anyway?

When the depth of any yearning or desire becomes too great, it can drive us insane. Luckily, most of us manage to strike a sort of balance that allows us to function and thrive, and prevent us from descending into madness. Yet, I can imagine a completely liberating madness. I cannot help but think that only those who are mad know of the joy of madness. The most sublime works of art have been produced by people who were deemed mad. Photography is no different.

So when we yearn for the perfect camera, perhaps we should be asking ourselves, as photographers, if the camera would indeed change the way we see, or if there is something else we should be lusting over instead.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, Editor, Editorial, Digital Photography, Better Photography magazine, october 2012, ideal’ camera, pathbreaking’ camera