Philosophy of an Amateur Photographer

Incidentally, of late, I have been discussing photography a lot with my friends. Recently, a friend of mine posed a question to me on the dilemma of a photographer about whether to capture a great moment, without bothering over image quality, or should one wait till one can ensure good quality and take whatever pictures are available then.



Now, I am just an amateur pursuing a hobby and clearly,  have no mastery over the art. But that has never stopped me from philosophizing over the subject ever before, so I thought why stop now. And I decided to respond. My response to him was such...






There are individuals who find the act of capturing a moment by itself euphoric but everything that follows as uninspiring. Be it manipulating the image or sharing it with an audience. They are more inclined to keep the photos to themselves than having to alter the original image for better effect. For them the thrill is in the act of capturing the moment through camera with all the manual settings.


On the other hand, there are also individuals, who believe in creating a final visual imagery that instigates a sense of awe amongst the audience. They don’t mind digitally tweaking the pictures a bit and creating a visually mesmerizing image.



These two types fall on the opposite sides of the pole. Yet in every respect they are both generally referred as Photographers. I respect these varying opinions for everyone's entitled to their own point of view. However, personally, I have a different take on these things.



Personally, to me - Poetry, Prose, Sketching, Painting, Sculpting, Photography and all such things – neither has anything to do with Creativity.



There are a finite set of ideas that govern the entire work of art since the discovery of art forms. In painting, there's portrait, landscape, abstract etc. In poetry, there's sonnet, haiku, freestyle etc. And in photography, there's wildlife, street photography, etc.Now, whether you draw a portrait of Monalisa or Mother Teressa, whether you write an haiku on spring or autumn, whether you click a snap of an eagle or a frog ... to me, there's no difference. I don't see Creativity in it. Then again, Creativity is overrated.



It’s the conditioned human mind that is in awe of something it can’t do itself and so starts praising the particular piece of work. And when there’s a good chunk of audience appreciating something, that piece of work becomes popular. And the generation that follows hence  sees it as an work of genius.



If you look at the history, from literature to art there have been the so called geniuses, who were not recognized in their own era. Their work was not appreciated then even though it was the same piece of work. Then someone thought it was incredibly brilliant and few others concurred. And the following generation just blindly accepted it to be a work of art.



If Painting or Poetry is Creativity than so is Programming. Because there’s a sect of programmers who believe – code is poetry. So would be the case with Microbiologists and Genetic Engineers. They all in their minds do believe they are creating something.


There’s no such thing as Creativity. Nothing that we do is unique or original. Of course, our ignorance of the history does give us the liberty to make that assumption. When Wright Brothers invented airplane, they sincerely believed it was their original idea. But history would beg to differ.



Then why do we humans constantly lay so much stress on creativity. Why so many of us aspire to be a creative genius. 



At the surface, we may talk about exploring our creativity or such thing. What we really are trying to do is find a way to channelize our undying desire to express ourselves. We, the way we are wired, are programmed to be Exhibitionists. Even the ones who are generally considered Introverts can be found blatantly talking about themselves when probed in the right way. This need to express ourselves is so strong that it has survived the evolution and the advancement of mankind.



So basically we are just storytellers, who love sharing stories. Be it ours or someone else’s, we love to weave an  engaging story. Take for instance, any prized artefact on auction. It’s the story behind the artefact that increases its net worth and not always the merit of the artefact itself. Often times, these stories are work of fiction, mainly because of the realization that stories sell.



We are consumers of stories – telling and listening to stories is what we do. What we have been doing since Genesis. And a story needs an audience. A story needs to have an ability to capture the rapt attention of its audience.



So for me like painting and other such art forms, even photography has nothing to do with creativity. Since the invention of camera, there have been pictures of a blooming bud, hunting hawk, wrinkled face and such stuff. We take a picture, we talk about the settings, we engage in so called intellectual discussion about our style and feel elated that we are a photographer. Just a overstuffed concept to fill the empty jar of our mind.



We don't realize many others have had the same macro setting and captured the same blooming bud. We use similar cameras, we focus on same subject, we almost have same settings and similar image manipulation techniques. And yet we tend to take pride in that creation, associate ourselves with it, experience a sense of achievement. I believe, that shouldn't be the case. One can rather do things knowing he is not creating an original masterpiece, rather, revealing his individuality and sharing his identity through his work.



The only way one can be unique is by choosing what story he wants to tell. Yes there's a blooming bud, but what if it's not in the garden, instead is on a concrete road, just crushed by a vehicle, or rather decorated on the dead body during the cremation ceremony. That would be a different story, even though you may be using the same camera and your subject remains the same. You have changed the narrative. That makes it unique. That piece of work reflects your individuality. It gets personal. Something, you can connect with and lend your name to.


I have a tendency to always ask myself how did the first guy do it? The first painter with his first painting, the first poet with the first poem, the first photographer with his first click. How could they possibly be aware what they were going to experience doing the work. They couldn't have known.



So when someone tells me that the act of poetry or art or creativity is a joy in itself and is what drives them, my instant reaction is you have a conditioned mind brainwashed to believe a concept that comforts and provides emotional gratification.



I believe they are different than the first one - the real Creator. He didn't knew there is joy. Yet he ventured in the direction. Why? Not because he sought joy or appreciation or recognition. He had no way to know the fate of his work. I believe all that guy was seeking is some sort of Creative Orgasm. A way to unleash the story teller in him. He picked a medium best suited to him and channelized his energy. And so we got these many art forms.



Brings me to my point - basically whether you choose to travel by plane, car or bus doesn't change the fact that you are a Traveller. The mode of transport is just means to an end. And so whether we choose pen, paints or camera to express ourselves doesn't change the fact that we are basically Storytellers, trying to tell a story. And a true storyteller, irrespective of the medium he chooses, is at any point of time just trying to express himself through some or other story. A story that need not be original, but can still be unique in its narrative. Original too is overrated anyways.



To me having a story in your mind is like carrying a new life in your womb. You need to deliver it, bring it out into the world to complete the cycle of conceiving. Then you can detach yourself from it and let the world crack their brains over it. They may love it, hate it or dismiss it. You can just sit back and enjoy their reactions or simply move on to conceive another story. So I normally ask myself what story am I trying to convey. How will my audience react to it. Will it mesmerize them or not. If I get a good answer I just do it. I don't care then, if I am holding a pen, a brush or a camera. I don't care at that moment who my audience will be. That comes later. I just engage in the act mindlessly, without any ego-boosting justification to drive my action.



As for the titles like genius, master, pro, photographer, artist, poet - these are basically labels given by people to please each other. A  mutual give and take leading to collective gratification.



End of the day, in any given moment, it just boils down to one thing - something inside you is driving you to perform a particular action. Simply do it for if you don't listen to yourself who else will you listen to. Forget about whether it brings joy or gives you kick. Do it because you want to do it. There's no glorified justification anyway behind anything we do. We just do it.



Of course, the simple fact doesn't satisfy us so we construct a glamorous story around it or attach a glorified label to please ourselves.



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