“Wow!” Lulu, my parrot, said looking at the black and white photograph on the screen of my laptop. “You have improved your photography skills”
“Thanks, Lulu” I opened another folder containing photographs which I had taken. “Coming from you it is means a lot.”
“Ha ha! That is the standard response to any compliment. Everything is templatized.” Lulu carefully looked at the various photographs in the folder. “Yes, you have improved your skills of photography, but there is a good scope for improvement.”
“Always, it is always there. Scope for improvement. Learning is an endless journey.”
“Good that you realized it.”
“I followed a few photographers who had posted black and white photographs on Twitter. Stunning photographs. I can watch some of them for hours.”
“One learns by observation. When did you begin taking photography seriously?”
“I was always interested in photography. I used to read LIFE magazine; it is more accurate to say that I was mesmerized by the photographs it carried. Later I had the same experience with National Geographic.”
“You have not answered my question …”
“Okay, okay. I began taking photography seriously only when ‘Aim and Shoot’ cameras hit the market. I remember taking a photograph with a 103-year-old woman.”
“Oh, really? Show me.”
“She belonged to an indentured worker’s family in Trinidad. I met her, spoke to her, and then clicked the photograph. But the mistake was that I packed my Sony camera – aim and shoot type – in my bag and it was stolen at Gatwick airport. With it went away my exclusive photograph of the 103 yrs old woman. A lesson was learnt the hard way. Now I always carry my camera on my person, I do not pack it.”
“Yes, and you must always carry your camera. Now with mobiles in everyone’s hands, everyone carries a camera. But very few use it well.”
“True. You have to be ready when the moment presents itself to be captured.”
“That reminds me of your street photography. What got you interested in it?”
“I was standing in a small traffic island; I intended to capture the lights of cars whizzing past. Suddenly a lady ran in to my frame. I clicked. Later I realized that it made a good ‘street photograph.’ The next day I saw a young lady standing at traffic lights waiting for them to turn green. I captured the moment.
“You said ‘you have improved your skills of photography, but there is a good scope for improvement.’ Can you be more specific?”
“Most of your shots are still from eye level or chest level. Would you not like to consider different perspectives?”
“Oh yes! You are right.”
“You watch photographs taken by great photographers. Right? What makes their photos good? “
“Feelings. Story. Look at this photograph.
Ida Wyman, a great photographer, captures the feelings, in other photographs she captures the unique moments, particularly after USA won the World War II.”
“Do you see feelings and stories in your photographs?
“Yes sometimes. Occasionally. Not always.”
“Now you know the scope for improvement.”
“Yes. I thought I was doing well, but you brought me down with a thud! I think I should give up photography.”
“No. A good photographer wastes ten thousand photographs before he starts clicking good ones. Keep at it. The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said, ‘Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.’”
“Tell me, you have shot some bad photographs. Why? What went wrong?”
“I get excited when I see a great opportunity or a moment. Heart beats go up. It could be a group of people, landscape, a scene which has a story, anything like that excites me. In my excitement I miss a good angle, sometimes composition. I fumble. And sometimes lose the best moment.”
“Great artists remain aloof, detached, while performing. Lata Mangeshkar sang many songs expressing pain and misery, but she rendered it without crying. You must steady your mind and yet capture the emotions. That is not easy to learn, but not too difficult to practice.”
“Dr. Shriram Lagoo, as an actor, perfected the technique of expressing feelings without getting emotional involvement. He mentioned it in his autobiography ‘Laman.’ Is that a lesson for you?”
“It is all in the mind. Awareness. It is about the photographer and not at all about the camera. This is true of every role you are performing, whether as a manager, doctor, parent or artist. If you are self-aware, half the battle is won. And yes, it is discovering yourself as you work. Do you get me?”
Lulu hopped on to my laptop. I clicked his photograph immediately.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” / Read more Lulu blogs in my book ‘The Lulu Duologues’
Pic courtesy: Lulu – Greg Hill on Unsplash. All other photographs and this blog copyrighted.