For the last week or so, I have been staring at a blank page. I have been trying to write about the state of my photography in the last month but in my mind, January came and went in a blur and I have a hard time extracting lessons from this month.
So, instead of writing a well-formed and planned post, I've decided to make this one something closer to a stream-of-consciousness. I hope it's not going to be too much of a mess. Be kind ;-).
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been slowly coming to the realization that I had been burning out, photographically speaking. It probably started in the 2nd half of last year, during the festival season: I became obsessed with capturing each one of them and it consumed me. Although I thoroughly enjoyed them, I also realized that it made my 'FOMO' peak. I would feel guilty if I missed an event. Given that I had only limited time during the week, I had to miss a few and each missed opportunity felt like a stab wound.
The aftermath of the festival season was no better: I was so agenda-driven for several months that I couldn't let myself flow the way I used to on the streets. I couldn't see a thing and even the joy was disappearing. It became clear that I needed a break.
That break finally came for a few weeks in December and the first weeks of January. The end of the year is usually a sacrosanct period when I do nothing. This dead period was then followed by a couple of weeks in January when I was sick. Somehow, that reset the clock.
This time-out made me realize the thing that I was longing for: I missed being a flaneur. I missed being agenda-less and letting the streets gift me miracles. What I really wanted was to give myself time to just wander and wonder and not worry about what to document on the streets. In other words, I needed to let loose.
And so, the goal of this past month has been to reconnect with the streets. Instead of shooting specific events or festivals, I decided to slow down and just walk. I went back to some of my favorite joints (Sassoon Docks, Haji Ali, Dadar Flower Market...) and kept myself open to serendipity.
I chased light and colors. I slowed down and talked to people. Kids gave me the finger and adults smiled at me. I stopped chasing big bang moments and instead looked for quieter stories.
As a result, my photography is starting to feel looser. More purposeful, yet aimless. My angles are getting wonkier. My pictures are getting blurrier. I am looking less for technical mastery and more for... a feeling, a certain "je ne sais quoi" that captures the elusive essence of what it feels to live in Mumbai in these crazy times.
Looking at my social media, I can safely say that this process hasn't produced what one would consider "popular" pictures ;-) (I'll have more to say about social media in a future post). But to me, these past weeks have been the most liberated I have felt in a number of months. Having nothing precise to shoot but being able to shoot everything freed me. Focusing on the process of taking pictures and not worrying about the results (both the photographic result and the response online) "unleashed" me. I felt more connected with my surroundings, more attuned to the rhythms of the streets and overall just a happier soul.
Isn't that the main reason why we do this strange activity called street photography? Why we wake up at wee hours in the morning to catch the first train and reach a place where we don't know a soul? Why we take pictures of rank strangers who could get upset with us? Somehow, I had lost sight of that goal for a few months. I had lost my way and became rigid.
This break turned out to be a godsend. It reconnected me to the main reason why I take pictures on the streets. It is bringing back my fluidity and I feel that I am back on my way home. If the rest of the year follows the path of January, this year may turn out to be very interesting!
To conclude this post, here are my favorite shots of January:
Thank you for reading!