It’s been fifteen years now.
Sometime, in 1999-2000, I bought my first film SLR. I was earning now, and the hobby didn’t seem as constraining as before. Since the many family cameras, I had read books about photography and was getting exposed to things like DoF, exposure, aperture and shutters. The family cameras seemed restrictive in terms of what was possible. With the new Cannon EOS 88 many rolls were now being exposed to the experiments of exposure and slow-shutter speeds. Many photographs were never printed. I was still using proof sheets. A friend lent me a book on SLR photography. I was now investing more in books.
Two things were becoming difficult: understanding tone and the optical maths.
This wasn’t the first time I used an SLR. I had once borrowed from a cousin, back in 1992. I was in college then, and wanted to take part in Mood Indigo. My friends were willing subjects, and I clicked away in the spirit of the competition.
I was in Singapore, on an assignment, when I bought the EOS88. No better place to take the camera out for a drive. The city is colourful, artificially though, and there’s a strong sense of symmetry and balance, all over the city. Everything in the city is in place, and setup for an amateur photographer, where the subject has been readied for your photography experiments.
The true test of the camera, came three years later, when we went to Kenya, to Masai Mara To have an SLR and to be out on a safari: what more could one ask for. In between, and later there were many trips in and around Konkan that helped me to use the camera to its full potential.
I wasn’t taking a lot of portraits though. Looking at a human looking back at me, was unnerving. If the portrait looked back at me, I immediately lowered the camera, without taking the photograph. I didn’t know how to photograph people and there was a part of me that was scared about the subject looking back at me, or even knowing that I was taking a photograph. It would not be till I bought my next camera, that I would start photographing people Perhaps the only people I could take photographs of, were little people. I wasn’t scared of them.
Flowers, trees, mountains, oceans, and empty houses seemed less judgemental than people. Before, during, and after the photograph, nothing changed. They were the same. The EOS88 was the time when I learnt framing. When there isn’t much moving in what you see, it’s you who have to move your PoV and find the perfect composition and balance. Humans tend not to not move. Even if their body or their face doesn’t move, their mind is constantly moving – and it shows up on their face, and then, in the photograph. To capture that one wonderful moment – I didn’t have that skill.
My best friend urged me to take more photos of people. She said, I’d have to, if I had to learn. She was right, but I refused.
I was comfortable with still life.