photography (noun) the art and technology of producing images on photosensitive surfaces, and its digital counterpart.
Photography was a hallowed art once, with seasoned practitioners, who perfected their art over the years. Every town had one or two famous studios where one used to get their photos clicked. Ah! What an occasion that used to be! There would be a tinge of thrill in the air when the people got ready to go to the studio. Carefully selecting their attire, powdering their noses, meticulously parting their hair, adjusting bindis, oiling moustaches... And once at the studio, trying to strike the perfect pose, while the photographer adjusted the lights to bring out that perfect photograph, after umpteen looks at the studio mirror to ensure that no strand of hair stood out of place.
It was probably a curious art form earlier, when the photographer vanished behind a huge camera, under a blanket, to click those exceptional black and white photographs of yore. Stately princes with their kills, royals in all their jewelled splendour, temples and palaces which seem to be stuck in a black and white time though the world was as colourful as it is now. (Little secret: I find it hard to imagine my ancestors in colour till this day! They will always be the black and white image of themselves which I glanced upon sometime)
Then there was the era of the family hand-held camera. Those little gadgets which accompanied families on outings, wrapped in a soft cloth. It revolutionized photography, much like when the Indian economy was opened. It meant that anyone could be a photographer & you could treasure the memories of your trips forever in a hard bound album. But as rolls came with only 24 or 36 shots, it took careful consideration & calculation to ensure that you had a photo of the best moments of the trip. There was not a photo to waste!
And then came the digital cameras. Bulky apparitions to begin with, but they got sleeker with time, and bulky again - to support more features. They sounded the death knell for small photo studios & analog cameras. And now with cameras in every mobile, there is not an ounce of privacy left in anyone's life! You never know when someone will point a camera in your face & pop a picture! A candid moment...
But somehow instead of making photography enjoyable, digital cameras have taken the joy out of it. You don't treasure your photographs, you don't love your cameras - because you are too busy looking for upgrades, you don't remember your trip because you spent the whole time either taking pictures or posing for them!
The number of photos you can take in a digital camera is virtually infinite. As soon as your memory cards start getting loaded, all you got to do is transfer all the photos to some web album, and you are ready to start fresh again!
What has happened though now is when 10 people go on a trip, at least half the members carry a digital camera, and each one will upload 500 odd photos. Compare this with the times when a group had to adjust with just one analog camera and means only for 24/36 photos! So now at the end of our trip, we have 2500 odd photos & a mild headache going through them & no one really wants to see them again a few years down the line.
So has technology really improved our lives? Or are we just using things just because they are available to us, falling into a bottomless pit as we do so? Of course, all these advances in technology means that we get a lot better photographs than we used to, we have access to all our photos at any time, we don't have to wait for a week for the photos to be developed, we can reorganize albums as we wish...
At the end of it all, just one moment stands out in my mind. I was in a theatre in Pune, on screen a father and son were walking on the breakwater towards the sunset while the mother stood on the shore with a newborn. When they reach the end, the father realizes that he has forgotten to bring his camera along & now it’s too late to turn back and fetch it as they would miss the glorious sunset. So he kneels down next to his little son and tells him that they can’t photograph this moment, "Remember it always. Remember that you and I made this journey and went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go"
The photo was etched in our memory forever...