Where the Heart Lingers and the Shutter Flutters


Family and friends, odds and ends, queer and dusty corners, curious cats, and belfries with bats. That’s my home. I have a cat (I am referring to the feline variety here), an orange tabby with green eyes. We found him abandoned and badly injured as a kitten, and nursed him back to health. He decided to adopt us. My daughter named him Incy. Nowadays, he graciously presents us with frequent furballs and occasional lizards. I have been so tempted to restart a photographic diary, but everything I shot earlier looked a lot like Anna Fox’s 41 Hewitt Road. I need to give it some serious thought. On the other hand, I could not resist making a cutesy photo, with my cellphone, of my daughter curled up with Incy, both fast asleep on her serrated alphabet play-mat. Serrated because it is also his favourite scratching post. He’s one. She’s three. When my daughter was one, she clawed through the plaster on the walls in some places.

I have a series of photographs of her claw marks, though I suspect not many would believe me if I showed them those pictures. When I revisit those photos, I hardly believe it myself! Not very long ago, my Mom started studying the violin, and Dad, as usual, practiced the mridangam. He would call me at work, once in a while, to complain about how terrible it sounded, “like a cat being tortured,” and that he had to get out of the house when she was at it, every afternoon, when it should have been time for his nap. My Dad and Incy share an intense love-hate relationship. I can understand how he felt. Mom, on the other hand, would call up to grumble about how inconsiderate he could be, starting with his mridangam at 5:00am, on the bed, right beside her. Sometimes, she said, she heard the horrible thing in her head through the day. They’ve been married for fifty years. I have still life photos of his mridangams carefully placed next to his ghatams, and my Mom’s violin and bow carelessly strewn on the bed. Those photos are not bad. They just don’t seem right, though. Perhaps, I should have used film (the medium is the message, and all that). But that’s not it either. I need to dig deeper to find my frames. Incy, peculiarly enough, can sleep through an earthquake, which I think is very strange for a cat.

There are photographs that I am happy about. The birth of my daughter. The priceless reactions of the grandparents, when they met her for the very first time outside the delivery room. My wife, fast asleep, curly hair all askew. And posed group photos, perfectly lit with a touch of flash for that sparkle in the eyes while retaining the ambient mood, made with a DSLR, balanced to get the details. Family group photographs do not sound like much, but they are becoming quite rare, if you think about it. I normally make over a dozen frames, including ones where everyone does something absolutely mad. They all become a part of my Google Photos timeline. An unexpected benefit has been the animated GIFs that get created automatically. I share them and get a few laughs in return. I quite like that.

It is not particularly easy to have a deeply profound vision about photographing one’s home and family. And this is one of the reasons why I respect the works of all the photographers featured in this issue. Yet, I also believe that, at some level, it is not all that critical to find that vision. But it is important to start shooting, and have fun while doing it.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Better Photography.