Life, photography

Life Lessons from Photography

Photography is the beauty of life captured – Tara Chisholm

Photography is an art and like any other art form it teaches so many things. The practice of photography has taught me just to pay closer attention to what I see around me every day. Some of the most satisfying pictures I have taken have been of things in the immediate vicinity of where I live and work. I am sharing my reflections from the moments spent with my camera. I am sure that these five are not the only learnings and of-course there are many more, please feel free to add your learnings….

  1. Live in the moment – Photography has taught me to be in the moment. When I go out with my camera, it’s only when I am completely in the moment, I get to recognize the surroundings and hence compose an image. There are lots of times when we get swayed by the circumstances and therefore don’t acknowledge the beauty of the moment.   
  2. Accept first in order to be accepted – I have learnt this while doing nature photography. Shooting birds/butterflies is really a difficult job; the moment you enter a location or even spot a bird it flies away, as they consider you to be a potential threat. However, if you stay at the location for some time, you also become a part of the ecosystem and no more considered an outsider and hence no threat to those birds around or any other creatures like grasshopper, butterflies, dragon flies etc. One stays at a place only when it has accepted the place “as it is” and therefore the entire location including all the living creatures accept you and then you can take pictures comfortably.  
  3. Once you decide your focus, rest of the things blur on their own – Photography is all about deciding what you focus on and that focus itself differentiates from the background and comes out shining. If we can apply the same philosophy to our lives, lot of things can change significantly. Wherever we go there’s lot of beauty around, we just need to have the right focus to identify it. Even the mundane things like shoe-rack, windows outside the building can appear to be attractive, if presented the right way and to present it that way one has to first decide what needs to be focused and what not.  
  4. Contrast makes things beautiful – Pictures appear beautiful when the foreground has contrasting colours to the background. If the subject and the background are of same colour, picture doesn’t appear interesting. If the subject is really bright, then the background should be relatively darker, otherwise, the subject will not stand-out and consequently it will look boring and would not catch viewer’s attention. We all strive for happiness in life and try to avoid gloom, however, cheerfulness will have no importance without melancholy. Only when we overcome the challenges, we get the sense of achievement. We feel proud of ourselves when we have accomplished a difficult task or have created something new.  
  5. Photography is just like meditation – Taking photographs and practising meditation might seem at first glance to be completely unrelated activities. In fact, both of them are in search of light, Photography looks outwards at the visual world through the medium of a camera, meditation focuses inwards. And whereas photography is concerned with producing images of reality, meditation is about seeing reality as it is. As practices, both meditation and photography demand commitment, discipline and technical skill. To go beyond mere expertise in either domain requires a capacity to see the world in a new way. The pursuit of meditation and photography leads away from fascination with the extraordinary and back to a rediscovery of the ordinary. Both photography and meditation require an ability to focus steadily on what is happening in order to see more clearly. Seeing things this way involves “shifting” to a frame of mind in which the habitual view of a familiar world is replaced by a keen sense of the unprecedented and unrepeatable configuration of each moment. Both meditation and photography are concerned with light. Meditators speak of “enlightenment”: an experience in which “light” metaphorically dispels the “darkness” of the mind and on the other hand photography also chases light in order to create pleasing images.
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Just be “YOU”

We all, at least the people born in 80s, like me, have grown up hearing this question, 

What you want to be when you grow-up?

and every time I faced this question, I used to feel very puzzled and I had different answers to it every time ranging from Doctor to Fighter pilot to a mountaineer. Now since I had my next generation in front of me, I thought it becomes my chance to throw this question. So, one fine day I asked this question to my loving daughter and the response that I got, gave me a food for thought.

Sunday afternoons are usually slow and that is when I get a chance to grab some siesta and relax a bit from my demanding schedule. However, that is when my affectionate daughter also gets a chance to catch up with me. So, I always have to make a choice whether to take a nap or spend some “alone time” with her, as my wife has a ritual of afternoon nap, which nobody dares to come in between. Since I had come back last evening only from my week-long travel to Coimbatore, I decided to get some rest. But as the fate would have it, she comes to me and inaudibly says something, mindful of the fact that her mother doesn’t like to be disturbed while she’s asleep. I, half-asleep tried to decipher what she wanted, asked her to repeat, now this time carefully watching her hand and lip movements, understood her. She wanted to ask me if she can watch TV for some time. We want our children to be honest and obedient, but who knows it comes at a cost of your priceless afternoon nap. Nonetheless, I immediately gave my OK for TV, making sure my slumber is intact. She immediately went out and switched-on TV. 

I lay in bed, trying to sleep again, but I always had this problem, once woken up from sleep it is really difficult get back. After about 10-15 minutes of tossing here and there, I came out to see she’s completely glued to TV and enjoying her favorite show, “Peppa Pig”. I really loved the smile on her face, after a while she realized that I have come out and not sleeping anymore. She jumped and came to hug me, which she keeps doing, umpteen times a day and I love it every single time.

I sat beside her enjoying the look on her face and suddenly started day-dreaming about what happens when she grows up, etc. I don’t know what came to my mind when I asked her, 

what do you want to be when you grow up?

 I had never expected to hear this kind of an answer. She very gullibly and almost immediately answered, 

can I not be just me, even when I grow-up?”.

I was not at all prepared for this answer, I was expecting to hear a similar kind of an answer like a doctor or an engineer or something of the sort that I have grown up with.

What came as an innocent answer, started a chain of thoughts in my mind. 

should I prepare her for the real world?

is she too naïve to face the harsh realities of this world?

have we not been making her aware of truths?

is she living in a fantasy world?

We all keep hearing the phrase, “there’s a lot to learn from children” and my 7-year old (now almost 9 years old) is no exception to it. That day she taught me to “be real” for real. It’s in fact important to always be yourself and love what you are. I guess, in this rat race we have apparently forgotten “what we are?” and “who we are?”. I really thank her for bringing me back to basics.