My first camera was a borrowed one which was lent to me by my cousin who went on to become one of the celebrated cinematographers in the country. That was during my undergraduate medical school years, when prudence in all matters was the overwhelming mantra. More so with photography since one had to save money to buy a 35mm roll and also spend more to print the images later. Each frame was thus precious.
I cycled on weekends hugging the camera close, exploring the landscape around JIPMER. Auroville was just being built and the place had a vibrant feel to it. Many unusual structures were coming up including a school with a flowing water body inside, which was aptly called the Last School. All of this provided fodder for my roving eyes. When I was not cycling around, I persuaded my classmates to pose for me in some unusual frames. A few of those photographs received awards in Inte-rmedical Photography Competitions.
Life after medical school was a very demanding period as the quest was to enroll in a post graduate course in a good college. I was passionate about psychiatry right from my college days and fortunately got admission in the prestigious National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences. Photography receded to the background as I became totally immersed in studies and honing my skills as a psychiatrist. It was only thereafter when I joined the faculty, I could afford a point and shoot camera. This came in handy during my treks with the students. But the lure of photography was kept in check with growing demands of the academic life.
I began saving money and bought my first digital camera. No more money spent on film rolls and printing! When the camera arrived, I opened the box like a child eagerly unwrapping a longed for gift! And there it was…a petite camera with a shiny, silvery tinge. I wanted to test it immediately, but the sky was overcast and chances of going outdoors were minimal.
I was casually looking around the room and a fork lying on the dining table caught my attention. I was struck by its reflection on the Formica covered table. As I looked closely at the fork and its reflection, it turned into something extraordinary. It wasn’t a simple fork anymore! In its reflection on the shiny, unexceptional surface, it had transformed itself to an object of beauty! I was enthralled to see the extraordinary in a mundane object of everyday life.
In that moment there was harmony between the object and its reflection. Henri Cartier-Bresson called it the “decisive moment”: pressing down the shutter button at the right time.
Images surround us every moment. We have to see them as if we have never seen them before. The world is full of such moments, if only we open ourselves to them and observe mindfully. There is always a difference between what we look at and what we see. Photography is often about embracing that moment…however fleeting it may be. All too often people spend far too much time preoccupying themselves with the equipment and its technicalities and not enough on just ‘seeing’.
If we use our cameras as poetic tools for seeing, and really notice the beauty all around us every day, we will find ourselves astonished by the seemingly ordinary things we might otherwise pass by in our busy, activity-filled lives.
The real camera is not in our hands but in the eyes behind the lens of the camera.
As I was looking at the fork on the table from a different angle, an entirely new perspective emerged. The fork and its reflection merged together to form a folded hand! It was a visual photo haiku!
Photography is a meditative practice for me, providing me with a lens to view life around me. It inspires me to search for beauty in the moment, often right in front of me. At that moment, time slows down and the mind expands in a magical way…