Photography is an art, its science, its music and it’s also poetry. Its the art of taking an instant out of time and freezing it. It’s purely on the way how you look at it. It’s a wonderful and rewarding profession and also a very satisfying hobby. Photography helps you unwind and gives you a chance to explore, it brings out newer perspective to life, by exposing you to your own ability to look at the things from different perspective.
Its amazing experience capturing moments and emotions and freezing them on celluloid. It could be kids playing on the ground, or some very old person sitting alone at some corner in the park. Photography helps you create painting with minimal effort and miniscule time in comparison to painting with paint and brush.
I started photography when I was in class eight, with an Agfa camera given by my father, who himself was an excellent photographer. Back then, there were only black and white 35 mm films and it was always delayed gratification with lot of suspense, as you could see your work printed only after few days, because those days developing studios used to take some time developing your film and printing the ones you chose by looking at the negatives. But that delay never reduced the joy of getting to see the snaps, and reminiscing the moments you’ve frozen on paper. The nervousness of fitting the film on your camera, seeing that you waste minimum of the film by exposing it to light while fixing the spool was marvelous and when you could extract 40-42 pictures from that film that promised 35 snaps, you used to get the feeling of great accomplishment.
I learnt skills and finer points of photography from my Mama ji, an artist who studied at Lucknow Arts College and later worked at King George’s Medical College, Lucknow as Artist. He had a small dark-room (The lab to develop and print films) set up in his drawing room, by partitioning it with ply-board. I assisted him in preparing the developer, for the negatives that he had exposed in course of his work at the medical college. He had a chemical balance to weigh the chemicals to be mixed in the developer; it was a great feeling being there in the process of creation of great photographs from those black strips of celluloid. While writing this I can still remember the pungent smell of the cocktail of Sulphuric Acid, Hydrochloric Acid, Acetic Acid, Nitric Acid, Metol, Hydroquinone, Potassium Metabisulphite and Sodium Hydroxide. The prepared developer was poured in the developing tank after loading the films on the cartridge inside. The tank was to be shaken occasionally, so that the film is developed evenly. It was thrilling experience as the film was loaded in complete darkness inside the darkroom. I learnt to see through my hands in the darkroom. It was a wonderful experience still very fresh in my mind.
My mama ji was an out of the box thinker a great Jugaadi as an innovator and out of the box thinker is called in India. He used hair removing soap to give sepia tone to the photographs. He also invented an interesting way to shake the developing tank, he used to put that tank in a bag while going for vegetable shopping, as he walked and moved around from shop to shop, the tank was silently shaking its way to developing the films evenly and time was also not wasted. Being part of developing process of the film, made me aware of the finer points of lights and how the film responds to it. This knowledge does come in handy even now, when the technology has taken over the better part of photography and it has become an art of instant gratification with almost no risks. Now the photographer is only left with the choices of choosing the timing and composition of his photograph, rest everything is taken care by the camera and what is left is further taken care of by Photoshop or Light room software. But these two components of photography; timing and composition, constitute the heart and soul of the photograph, and like humans, how so ever beautiful or attractive a person might look physically, unless he is bestowed with a good soul, his attraction would not hold long.
The composition is a technique which becomes a natural reflexive act like gear shifting in car, once you have shot enough number of photographs, but timing is something which can only come if you are part of the scene with all your heart in it. Life of a moment is only a moment long, and that’s all the time a photographer gets to capture it.
Sometime a photographer has to choose between composition and moment, a good photographer always chooses the later as the moment or lamha is important. Gulzar’s has expressed it beautifully – ek baar waqt se lamha gira kahin, wahan daastaan mili lamha kahi nahi. A photograph captures only a moment a lamha, but when you look at that moment captured in photograph an entire story unfolds in your mind. The memories keep pouring in, might bring smile on your face or tears in your eyes. This song has the philosophy of a photographer in its opening lines – Aane waala pal jaane waala hai, ho sakey to isme zindagi bita do, pal jo ye jaane wala hai.
With the advent of smartphone and very versatile digital cameras, photography as a technique is very simplified for a user. Now even a novice can capture good photographs with almost no effort. I said good photograph, because my friend Neeraj Sharma, an acclaimed international photographer says there is no bad photograph, its only how you look at it.
So all you my photographer friends, be ready to capture aane waala pal, before it leaves.
Mr. K.K. Bajpai