It’s Not About Photographs – I

I have stopped taking photographs.

After about fifty-thousand of them, you have pretty much photographed everything. Everything has an interesting meaning in this context, but, yes, I feel I’ve photographed everything. The lens and the eye have a relationship and as long as it exists, the photograph comes into being. When that relationship is over, you know that the journey is complete. Perhaps the eye and the lens will find that they are still in love; perhaps they may get together again in the future, but for now, they know: it is over.

This was one of the last photos I took.

IMG 3351  Version 2

I was sitting in a rickshaw and took this photograph while we were waiting at a traffic signal. A small window that described what was there behind me. If you are the analytical-type, you might say – It was a glimpse of the past – through a small window. But, there is no way you can relate to the content.


For a while now, I have been thinking about the things I read in a book. It was a very small book, few pages, but it packed a dynamite, so to speak. And I’ve been trying hard to understand it. It is making perfect sense – but it doesn’t work. Then, I read another book. And I get a feeling that – somehow I think I understand – why some cities are cool and some are not. I see no reason for Delhi to be peaceful, ever. That city has seen trauma in a way that, as far as I know, no city in this world has seen.


Atul Chitnis died this week. I knew him only as a Twitter contact and a sane voice. I didn’t send a RIP tweet. He deserved a lot more than that. He deserves a lot more than this mention in a potpourri post, but I am unable to say anything more. Some emotions can never be frivolous. 


It is sad to see the obsession that some people accumulate for the trivial. To see a great mind stoop to gossip-level is disheartening. To see that great mind justify and genuinely believe in the commercial malice is worse. I’d be happy to agree that the great mind was doing this for a limited purpose; it seems, however, we fall prey to our own lies. At that time, even those who throw a rope to save us from drowning, seem ideological enemies.


By default, humans were not designed for choice – that’s a social imposition – which we have got used to.


Knowing is more important than proving. If some hack takes your idea and presents it as his (or hers – just being politically correct) enjoy the fact that you idea has appeal and resonance. Ignore that they call it their own. The idea has to be more important than the owner of the idea. Open-source your idea. If you never implemented it, you will die happy that you started it.


Some things in life are futile.

futile (adj.): (etymology) literally “pouring out easily” (of a vessel), hence “easily emptied, leaky, unreliable,”

Long time ago, in India we used water clocks. If you have heard of the term “ghada bhar gaya” you know now where this came from.

With his new optimism came the thought that – if he was indeed to establish himself here – he must try to understand this new land and its customs. With the aid of Junayd Barlas as interpreter, he began to question some of those they passed on the road, farmers, merchants, peasants, about the things he saw. One day he noticed a man in a purple turban striking with a mallet a brass disc big as a tray hanging above a tank of water. He learned that this man was a ghariyali – a timekeeper. In Babur’s homeland each day was divided into twenty-four hours and each hour into sixty minutes but he discovered that in Hindustan his new subjects apportioned day and night into sixty parts – gharis – of twenty-four minutes, while night and day were also each divided into four watches, pahars. Ghariyalis measured the passage of each pahar by submerging in water special pots with a hole in the bottom that took exactly one ghari to fill. At the end of the first ghari of their watch they struck a large, thick brass disc so that all could hear. At the end of the second ghari they struck it twice, and so on until their watch was over, when they struck it many times in rapid succession.

~ Raiders from the North, Alex Rutherford (Empire of the Moghul Series)

It’s futile. It’s not water; our feelings leak; we drown.


Someday, I’ll start taking photos of things that really mean something.

10 thoughts on “It’s Not About Photographs – I

  1. I have been so shocked after reading this post that I did not have the nerve to comment so far.

    You no longer taking photographs is a milestone that deserved its own post, all by itself. I did not like the way you slipped it in a potpourri post. Granted, it was not surreptitious, but it was wholly demeaning to your entire body of work as a photographer, for which I no longer have any adjectives.

    “The lens and the eye have a relationship and as long as it exists, the photograph comes into being. When that relationship is over, you know that the journey is complete.”
    Almost no journeys are ever truly complete, and this particular one is never, never “complete”. As long as there is your mind behind your eye, whether you have a camera in hand or not, this relationship continues forever. You may choose not to carry a camera, choose not to capture a moment even if you were, but your mind is anyway capturing that moment. Among a group of people witnessing the same scene, your mind has the ability to capture it in a way nobody else does. That will never be over or complete.

    “After about fifty-thousand of them, you have pretty much photographed everything.”
    I am not sure whether this makes sense, but an equivalent “After climbing Mt. Everest, there was no other challenge left for me, I’ve pretty much conquered everything” is what I thought of. After achieving a pinnacle, does one say it’s all over? I have never been in this situation myself, so can’t say, but I confess I have thought about this for quite a long time. In music, did Beethoven think it’s over for him after composing the 9th? Did Kumar Gandharva think his journey with Raag Yaman was “complete”? Did he think that after fifty thousand explorations of Raag Yaman, his journey with Yaman is “complete”?


  2. P.S. Despite multiple futile attempts at reading the whole post, I have not yet been successful in really reading the rest of it. I just can’t make my mind get over the shock in the first part. Apologies for that.


  3. Pingback: It’s Not About Photographs -III | Gaizabonts

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