A Potpourri of Thoughts
Updated: Sep 21
It's been ages since I've penned down some of my thoughts about photography. Actually, I realised today that my last blog post was published almost 7 months ago! Time does have a way of slipping through your fingers, especially when so many external factors play a role in pulling you away from what you love.
The last few months have been a bit of an ordeal on the personal front. The issues took me away from the streets (although I still found ways to sneak in a few hours of photography every week). These last months also made me realise that I love to write. It's a kind of a twin to my photography. I can't just take pictures day in and day out, I need to write about my experiences, and I need to go back to my archive on a regular basis and see what themes come out of it.
So, I have decided that no matter what else happens in my life, I will set aside some time every week to write.
To do so, I am going to reset a bit my expectations with these blog posts. I think that I wasn't regular enough in the past because I was overthinking the aim of this blog. I don't need to reinvent the wheel with every post! Now, my goals are more modest: What I want to achieve with these few lines is for you, my fellow reader, to feel that you are having a conversation with me over beers at the end of a hectic day. I am not one for jargon and theoretical knowledge. The only experience I know and am an expert in is my own. And that's what I will share here from now on. And if you benefit even a little bit from it, or if my writing makes you smile, then this modest goal of mine will be accomplished. Wish me luck!
Now on to this post. I thought that instead of writing one long-winded post, I'd kick-start this new round of posts with a few short topics I had written about on Instagram over the last months, a kind of a potpourri if you will. Some of these topics may just stay in this very short form, and others may be developed in future posts. I'll just keep things organic. I hope you enjoy them!
For years, I was totally averse to shooting with a flash. I was shit scared of people's reactions to it, although I really liked the pictures that were created by others using a flash.
I remember seeing pictures from Bruce Gilden, Mark Cohen, and many of the contemporary photographers and thinking that it was a look that I would love to give to my pictures.
My personal shift and adoption of the flash happened slowly at first (shooting at festivals where it was easier to be "intrusive") but accelerated over the last year or 2.
I think it came more out of a need than a want: the light in Mumbai tends to be pretty shitty due to the pollution. There are only a few select weeks in a year when the smog doesn't play spoilsport. Also, I tend to shoot outside of the golden and blue hours and so many a time, I got to create my own light.
But beyond these needs, I also love the look. I love how it makes colors pop, and how it accentuates certain situations and facial expressions. And well, the more I use it, the more I realised that people don't care/notice it so the fear also went away 😅.
Flash is a lovely tool that I hope to keep using in the coming years. Here are some fill-flash images that I shot this year.
ON SERENDIPITY AND KEEPING YOURSELF OPEN
One morning in April, I was in the metro on my way to one of the suburbs of Mumbai when I saw a crowd from the window. My curiosity made me get down at the next stop and follow them.
This led me to spend a very interesting morning in an area that I had never visited with these lovely and welcoming people. It turns out that they had just received a murti (a statue of a god/goddess) from Karnataka and were doing a procession in the neighbourhood before setting it in their little temple.
I witnessed dances, trances, devotion; basically the whole gamut of human emotions in the span of a morning. I couldn't have asked for more as an observer of people.
Why am I writing about this? That morning got me thinking and made me realise that I ought to tap into the "backpacker's mindset" more often: I am often a bit more "adventurous" when I travel. As I don't know anyone or anything, I'll just wander around and put myself in situations that can lead to interesting stories.
But when I walk in my own city, I tend to look for more comfort: I go to places that I am familiar with.
There is often a tussle between walking well-trodden paths and "exploring" new neighborhoods with their challenges and potential heartbreaks (that area may have nothing of note). More often than not, I'll favor the "safety" of well-known areas: I know their rhythms, I know what to expect. The downside is that I get less of a chance to let life surprise me (although it still happens).
That day in April is a constant reminder that there is magic in the unknown and that taking the path at the crossroads that leads to strange lands can yield wonderful surprises. You don't need to travel to foreign shores to have adventures. Be a backpacker in your own city and let serendipity do its miracles. It can be the most rewarding of experiences.
ON MY EVOLVING APPROACH
For the most part of June and July, I wasn't able to go out and take pictures. This led me into a pretty dark hole. I felt sad and sorry for myself.
Too often over the last few years, I have equated my whole self with my photography. I had this idea that my life's purpose was fulfilled only if I spent the majority of my time shooting. If I missed a few weeks, I would feel jittery and my sense of self-worth would plummet.
In a way, this forced break for the last 2-3 months was a blessing in disguise. It showed me how unsustainable my approach has been and it reconfigured my relationship with photography.
In August, I realised that I didn't need to spend whole days shooting. I don't need to go to the farthest areas of Mumbai. Instead, I spent most of my time doing short, punctual walks in the neighborhood. I would spend 2-3 hours whenever time permitted. Photography permeated my life but wasn't its whole purpose.
I went to exhibitions, small events, neighborhood walks with my camera. The primary purpose wasn't to take pictures but to enjoy these activities and capture some images along the way. It also made me relook at my work and brought on the idea of my 3km from home project.
I can honestly say that I am feeling much more at ease. More relaxed and I think that my photography will benefit from it. Hopefully, these images won't look too forced but more free-flowing and enjoyable. I certainly enjoyed taking them!
Here are 5 images from 5 short outings I took the past month.
I am glad I was able to get into writing after such a long time and I hope that this time it will stick!
As always, thanks for reading, and see you soon!
PS: here are 3 shots that made my last couple of months special.