I like to take photographs. I think I am good at taking photographs. I love to take photographs. I think in terms of only photographs. This is almost like a passion barometer. On the other end, there is an outcome scale as well, which goes something like this. I am happy with my photographs. I love the photographs I take. I can never be happy with my photographs. My best photographs have yet not been taken, and may never be. There is no such thing as the best photograph. If you can sense where I coming from, this is like a Likert scale where you can gauge a person’s passion on what they say. For instance, I like, or I think I might like, etc., are at the lower end of the scale, whereas the more passionate folks tend to veer towards an innate curiosity of never settling, but for the best. The extreme side of the scale believes there is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is like seeking truth which is akin to meeting divinity, which is like chasing infinity.

Now why do I need to get into this, you may ask? That is a fair question. But it is a pertinent question nonetheless. It is an existential question for humanity. A couple of centuries back, you could have imagined the plight of people who wanted to capture important moments, and events of their lives. Forget important, even ordinary moments that needed to be captured were not possible. In a way, it was a search or quest for posterity hinging on human obsession with immortality, as moments captured will survive through time and ages, unlike the physical human body that would eventually give in to slow decay. In those times, you could at best write, draw, or carve. Imagine drawing the magnificent Himalayas, the serene Dal Lake of Kashmir, or the beautiful Gulmohar gardens of Srinagar. It is possible, but you would need to be a professional artist to be able to capture the real beauty of these places. Not to mention, it is extremely time-consuming and laborious. Not everybody has an eye for photography with which Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa. You do not get more real than that, it is almost the zenith of one’s craft.    

So, when did humanity get to take photographs like we know now? I did a bit of research to find out that the world’s first photograph on a camera was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. This photo, simply titled, “View from the Window at Le Gras,” is said to be the world’s earliest surviving photograph. What would you have clicked in his place? That is what is happening when we fast forward to the present. The gift of the camera seems to have made everyone an overnight photographer. You might click on an Apple iPhone, a DSLR, or a GoPro, etc., and you do not instantly become a photographer. Though Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first officially recorded photograph, that does not necessarily make him a photographer. Not everyone is a photographer and not everyone can be. You can learn, aspire to be a photographer par excellence, and be good at it. But you need to have an uncanny eye, to say ‘gifted’ might be overdoing it, but it is surely not up everyone’s alley. In cricket, we know a lot of technically sound batsmen like Sanjay Manjrekar, VVS Laxman, and many others, but by their very own admission, they will not count themselves as ‘gifted’ and naturally talented players. They needed to work on their craft day in and day out to reach a level of mastery that more gifted players like say, Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, or Sachin Tendulkar did not need to.  If they did, it was purely because of passion and their love for the game. They were naturals with a flair for batting.

So, while we thank genius inventors like Alphonse Giroux and Louis Le Prince for giving humanity the ‘camera’ to capture memories for posterity’s sake, it is up to us ordinary folks who have the camera at our disposal to make the most of it. In any field, you will have amateurs, beginners, advanced, and professionals and similarly, in photography, we need to identify and find genuine talent that raises the benchmark of photography and under whose tutelage we can flourish. It has been centuries since another Da Vinci exploded on the scene, capturing the collective imagination of humanity, and we might just be at the cusp of one. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that the photography of our age is a match to the level of creativity and perfection of the bygone Renaissance period and earlier. The modern technology is astounding, but the impact of our photography is zilch in comparison. A layman can remember only two major photographs in the recent past that have captured the human imagination like never before. One is the 1985 National Geographic cover which revealed the disturbing truth about what is reflected in the Afghan refugee Sharbat Gula’s mesmerising green eyes. Or, the iconic photo that woke up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis remains indelible: a three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey. We need a million more such photographs that can reach the hearts of the 7 billion people on planet Earth.

This article of mine is only a small insignificant drop in the ocean of knowledge, but I hope to be able to steer some amount of passion and discussion among the budding talent, the creative rebels who are restless and believe the best is yet to come. Let us take photography and creativity to where its’ rightful position is.