About 3 years ago, I just happened to catch a interview midway on the tele, a lady walking about with the host discussing how photographs are made not by the camera’s we use but the books we read, the music we listen to and our exposures in our lives I didn’t know who that lady was or what she had done but there was something about her which left this memory imprinted in my head with a reverence unexplained.
On later research and endless Google searches I found out more about that enigmatic speaker, a photographer named Dayanita Singh. After a long episode of troubling her with mails and friend requests, I met her at the India Art Summit, New Delhi and then again at the Jaipur LIT. And the only tip she gave for young photographers was “Read Read Read“.
But whats so important about reading you might ask doesn’t the importance lie in the technical expertise? Ayn Rand, in one of her essays wrote :
“A certain type of confusion about the relationship between scientific discoveries and art, leads to a frequently asked question : Is photography an art? The answer is No. Its a technical, not a creative, skill.”
So doesn’t that make us question ourselves about technicalities of this skill, the medium’s dependence on the tools?
Ask this question to the people around you and surprisingly most non-photographers will say that equipment and technicalities are important. But if you speak to anyone who is a serious photographer, they will tell you otherwise. Because the skill to master the tool doesn’t bring with it the creative insight which makes a artist. Buying a fender won’t make me Slash and getting my hands on a football won’t make me Messi.
Its important to know your camera but then it doesn’t give you insight in a subject, it will not compose images for you nor will it pick out when you need to shoot and why. A camera, no matter how expensive will not be able to identify with your emotions or tell stories. As you spend more and more time understanding photography, you’ll recognize the importance of these words. Every time a picture is made, it reflects the mood and character of the photographer, not the technicalities of the equipment used.
Walker Evans once said”People always ask me what camera I use. It’s not the camera, it’s” and he tapped his temple with his index finger.
So the next time, you’re in the audience listening to Raghu Rai or Dayanita Singh, try to ask about the things which really matter rather than “What camera do you use” or “What is the one technical tip which you’d like to give”.