Digital Photography – a blessing in disguise
More than half the people, who own an expensive DSLR these days, do so because somehow they think it is the new style statement – a necessary item to be possessed by anyone who wants to feel ‘accepted’. The worst part is that most of the people who own a DSLR have no real knowledge of how to properly use their device, but just because they own one, their entire self being exalts them to the level of some great photographer.
Suddenly, a picture of the sky will seem beautiful. A perfect picture will include a stray dog on the corner of your street. Naturally, you run around everywhere with your camera – poking it into random areas and trying to look sophisticated adjusting settings (of course you are just fiddling with the buttons figuring out their functions). Possessing a high end camera is going to make you feel like a god.
It doesn’t matter whether you take a picture of your friends striking awkward poses or a picture of an open sewer line, they will be filed under the same folder. That folder will ingeniously be named ‘Randoms’. No matter what picture you upload, it will be showered with praise. The pixels will transcend all worldly boundaries and attain a level of absolute beauty.
Why everyone with a camera call themselves a photographer these days? Is photography gear more affordable or Digital system has made everything easier? Free Apps for phone like Instagram and Flickr? It’s hard to know the actual reason but Facebook has opened many gates to people, direct access to people and above reasons may be true but “A Professional is always a Professional”. Buying a second hand camera from Chandni Chowk and creating a page on Facebook with 1000 likes or putting a word ‘Photographer’ on twitter bio and clicking 10-20 pictures of rotten leaves on ground does not make you a photographer.
The aesthetic claims of photography, from the modernist era to our time, have been based on the peculiar synthesis of art and science that was articulated most cogently by Paul Strand in a 1922 essay called "Photography and the New God": the camera was, in the right hands, the perfect amalgam of imagination and representation, intuition and craft, in short an idealized model of our mastery of technology. As such, he argued, it was a counter-symbol to the God of the Machine, opposing the latter's indifferent and destructive materialism and the demands it made upon the body of the worker. Essential to his argument was the aesthetic control the artist could exercise over the machine, an implicitly heroic power.
If we are now, in the twenty-first century, beyond the age of the machine and well into a digital age that is dominated by electronic media, then we are also, in some ways, beyond the age of the heroic photographer. And in these changed conditions for the production of visual imagery, we must inquire whether the place of the aesthetic has not also changed. In fact, we are in the midst of such change, one that requires us to look at photography within a broader spectrum of visual culture, both in terms of the production of visual imagery and its consumption. Strand, in the modernist era, invoked an image of the photographer as the exemplary master of the machine.
Among many of the documentary photographers known, Jim Nachtwey has an unshakeable belief in the power of images, and that there is a real social value in people being able to see what happened. As quoted by him, “What sustains me is the overall value in communicating. People need to know and they need to understand in a human way. Photography is a language, with its own limitations and strengths, but these are my tools, so I have to try and use them well. I want my pictures to be powerful and eloquent. I want to reach people on a deep level. Because I’m presenting my images to a mass audience, I have to have faith that people care about things. People are innately generous, and if they have a channel for their generosity, they’ll respond. People know when something unacceptable is going on, and they want to see it change. I think that’s the basis of communication. Mass awareness is one element of change, but it has to be combined with political will.”
On September 11, 2001, Jim Nachtwey woke up early in the morning hearing sounds outside. From his window he saw the north tower of the World Trade Center in flames. A few minutes later, the second plane hit the south tower. He packed up his cameras, loaded all the film he had, and ran toward the burning towers. He was going to do his job, to get to the spot and document what was happening.
The photographs that Nachtwey took that day, over the next twelve hours, are some of the most iconic images of 9/11: the south tower collapsing behind the cross atop the Church of Saint Peter on Church Street and Barclay; ghostly figures coated in white dust emerging from the smoke; three firemen working around their leader, on his knees, bareheaded, looking back to see the flames sweeping toward them; and the twisted, otherworldly ruins of World Trade Center, looking like the “set of a silent film of the apocalypse.”
Years and years of practice and continuous process of learning make one become a professional. Very few will ever go through the hassle of learning techniques and improving skills to turn the hobby into a career. But for the majority, this niche of individuals will be forgotten. Their expensive Nikons and Canons are the loves of their lives – for a while. And yes it is nor the camera nor the techniques which makes a good photograph. One should have the knowledge of camera and also the aesthetic sense, and framing to click a good picture. All pictures are not always appealing, have you ever tried to find out. Is it the subject, is it the colours, is it the frame or composition?
So if you’re not on the bandwagon yet, save yourself the 15 minutes of air-headedness you’ll feel as you race around town taking pictures of stray cats as part of your ‘Wildlife’ catalogue. Knowing how to use all the buttons on the camera and not needing big cameras to make yourself look like a tourist makes you a photographer.
These institutes are good for learning about photography and learn how to use your camera in an apt way:
● Delhi School of Photography
● Delhi college of Photography
● Apex Academy
And of course College of Art, where one can learn to become a professional designer, photographer and gather aesthetic values.
Deptt. of Mass Communication