A friend asked me recently – why photography?
I struggled to answer, like to many questions that border on the abstract. It is like someone asking me why I like to write.
Today, while reading the Reuters Photographers Blog, I think I have the answer to some part of the question. There are various reasons to ‘why photography’.
But the one right now – because a picture does speak a thousand words. And when combined with another 100 written words, it becomes priceless. A photograph is a memory. Sometimes, faulty. But a memory, nevertheless.
Every person has a story to tell. Sometimes, the entire story can be conveyed in the angle of the photograph. Sometimes, it is a sheer lie.
There are photographs that are etched in our memories.
Sharbat Gula – Steve McCurry (if you can’t recollect the name, remember the girl with the captivating green eyes on NGC?)
The photo of a vulture watching a starving child – Kevin Carter. (He won an award and later killed himself. His suicide note is a topic for another day)
Those two photographs are perhaps the most vivid in my memory. But there were others along the way… William Beall’s photo “Faith and Confidence” that won the Pultizer in 1958. A simple photo of an American soldier bending to talk to a little boy. It is adorably cute, and considering the time, beautifully naïve.
Another one of my favorites was taken by a friend of mine. Not even a noted photographer – it was a photo of a bunch of monks, jumping a gate. The frivolity of the moment completely belied what one believes monks stood for. You expect them to be quiet, peaceful, serious. And we forget these monks are young boys too.
A photograph by itself perhaps is not as impressive. But when put in context with history, or a situation, it takes a whole new image.
People have often asked me about the images decorating my walls. It isn’t narcissism that makes me post only the photos I have taken. Each image has a memory, a relevance. Perhaps I needed to be reminded ‘why photography.’
I took up journalism years ago because I wanted to tell those million stories floating around in the world. I haven’t really done that much, though. And perhaps it was the frustration of being unable to do so that promoted the shift to photography. The ability to capture a million words, the absent look and the one moment which is almost invisible to the naked eye. The ability to tell a story.