A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak at an arts festival. The theme was about “Transforming the Image” and I had divided my talk/presentation into 4 parts. One of them concerned the act of seeing and what we believe to be real in the photographic context. Thinking out loud on some (still abstract) thoughts drawn from there…
Being in photography and having photography become a part of me has been both my blessing and burden. I have a love-hate relationship with my art and a turbulent one at that. I say love-hate because it follows me like a moody shadow with a life of it’s own, and so, my visual psyche or the shadow, and fragments of it permeate anything and everything I see, touch, and think or dream about. My mind is bursting with visual data, originating from inside, or being assimilated from the outside. We are all subject to so much visual input at such an appalling rate that we seem to have created for ourselves a strange sense of reality. Or even the concept of it. We believe what we want to believe as mankind always has and always will – a system that is characterized by the hierarchy of needs on a strongly cultural canvas. It is ever changing,ever evolving, individually and collectively shaped and no one person can assume to draw out a truth. We can only learn as a collective, drawing from the myriad perspectives and prisms with an open mind, for what is real is not the finding but the process, the fight and attempts at honest representations, an acute awareness of all these.
twilight, from the series vajra
shakti, from the series vajra
Why am I even pondering on this ? Because, we believe that photographs have a more direct relation to the “real”in a purely physical sense, so our default setting in relation to them is physical credulity, as if it were the defining virtue. And the lack thereof leads to a general non acceptance. That leans towards dogma and that, I find troubling. We tend to hold on to the physical, for we all like holding on to something tactile with touch and feel. Something that assuredly dances to a ticking clock rather than something that is suspended in time and space, which really is the truth as we don’t know it. Ironically we forget that this also what images do. Images of all kinds. A part of my photographic work comprises of montage and experimental work – all of this is drawn from my real, but I have and continue to receive disguised criticism with undercurrents of negativity, which is far from being constructive. It used to trouble me before. But then evoloution has a way with us. We grow up and our prisms become more inclusive. Pondering over this fragile, fleeting subject for years has strengthened my belief in the vastness of the subtle fields of realities that exist amongst us. I cannot overstate the “real”ness of those spaces and the expressions drawn from there, as my work does. A montage is therefore as real as reportage, just, in a different way. Both, seen and internalized. I like my work to be directed towards the psychological and spiritual consciousness and not just the perceptive consciousness of seeing with the eyes. So what are we expecting of photography when we say it’s role is to record life “as it is” “in a real way” and so on ? If it was a mere note taking device to document evolution of the modern era, it’s rewards and wounds, why even make it to out be an art form ? I suppose all of us know, one way or the other, all visual information is transformed by way of biological seeing, and then by way of process of rendering or the medium.. Photography for that matter is much more about elimination than inclusion. We exclude ninety percent to include a particularly decisive ten percent of that which comes into our field of view. Before even the lens comes on to the camera, the perspective has been formed. The rest, as they say, is history. Ironically, this very limitation holds the key to photography’s magic and in an odd way, it is one that tells the truth about us.
reach, from the series a timeless solitude
How we choose to render is a different battle in itself and not one of the essence or the thought process itself. Separating these has helped and continues to do so. Surely it is an integral choice that can be additive or subtractive, shortsighted or long winded. A path of impatience or adventure. It can make the essence come alive or destroy it. Like the creativity that births a project, the path should also be one that nurtures it in a wholesome way. All that is needed is some introspection, a clear map, and some time tested wisdom.