Monday, November 9, 2009


My friends tease me that if I am given a camera on a said day, I'll get captivated by shutter-bugging all the time and forget to spend time with them. The predicate of the sentence is utterly false. (Yeah, remember 1st Std English Grammar?) In fact, until the SLR was gifted to one of my friends on her b'day, everyone pretty much took it for granted that I would be taking pics at each and every outing.

Never mind that I choose not to focus on the fact that if a camera in any form is placed in front of me, I will happily pose for it. I choose to relate this to a healthy level of self-esteem; but this I will leave for another day.

Coming back to my love for photography - I never owned a camera until March 2007. The family owned an old outdated Nikon that was lost in my father's cupboard - a testimony to his general disinterested self in the last decade and half of his life. I remember him asking my uncle to buy it for him in the early 90s in the US and airship it with my grandparents on their way back from the US. I believe and hope my memory rightly prods me to say so that Appa spent a decently large sum on the camera. In fact, I remember the pride and content on his face when he first received it - probably among his favorite material possessions. I am personally fond of this camera now for a personal reason - that it adorns my laptop wallpaper; a picture of Appa taking a picture of someone with his camera.

Wow! I do get distracted very easily. But my point of this anecdote was that at some level, I was influenced by my dad's short-lived interest in photography. My first camera was a gift by mom's sister and her husband to me. My aunt definitely experienced relief that I had completed my MBBS and had finally hopefully rid myself of exams. I haven't really pursued photography as a skill, haven't learnt the art of still photography, haven't learnt about influence of lighting or any other nuances. I admire people who take an avid interest in developing this hobby and love to listen to their tidbits. Yet my love for photography is different.

I love taking pictures of people. Maybe it is because I am a people's person; but I reason it is more likely from years of time spent in the local trains in Mumbai silently observing people. As arduous, tiring and even nightmarish that local train travel can be, seasoned travelers will all subscribe to this shared cultivated passion for observing others during the long travel times. Calm, contented, happy, elated, uncontrollable-laughter-filled, retail-therapied, surprised, taken aback, anxious, worried, scared, hopeful, prayer-filled, angry, irritated, disgusted, foul-mouthed, peeved, miffed, discontented, tired, hungry, sleepy, sleeping, dozing, snoring, sleeping-with-mouth-open, sleeping-with-mouth-open-and-drooling, ogling-from-the-video-coach ... and expressionless faces... I would always think to myself about how amazing it would be to capture the entire range of emotions in one moment, in one picture. More ambitiously, I would imagine the cool idea of capturing the same face at different times - a feat possible as we were all 'regulars' who often bumped into each other and shared a quietly acknowledged bond. I missed the camera when my friends and I would jump in a puddle created by the rain. I missed the camera when a friend and I caught one of my studious (annoyingly boring) med-school classmates gorging on a watermelon on the road on one hot summer afternoon - and we couldn't figure out if those black spots were the seeds or flies. I missed my camera when that little 4 footer old man danced cutely with his iktara outside Parel station to the tunes of devotional abhangs.

I love capturing candid moments involving people. Sunsets and birds and mountains and valleys - I love to inhale them and keep them alive in my memory. But people, especially, in their unguarded moments are my passion. What is the use of having many pictures of the same person uncomfortably posing in their apparently most docile self for the camera? I want to capture the spirit of that person in the camera, as difficult as it may be. Everyone is beautiful and everyone makes the camera better - if they are allowed to do so by being themselves. While I do not approve of the candid camera violating boundaries of accepted noble behavior, I definitely heartily encourage the spirit of capturing my friends, relatives, loved ones and even strangers in the narrow aperture of that awesome device.

After all, it makes for great memories.

And my subjects usually love them too.