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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Limits of a Photograph

Nidhi on photography, storytelling and memories:

You see, I believe that photographs make for good stories, but not great memories.


I’m not saying the human eye sees reality/things exactly as they are. Everything is a perception, be it a photograph or a memory. I’m just saying a memory usually turns out to be very different from a photograph.

I’ve noticed that I often refrain from (and rarely miss) using my camera when going through some of the most incredible experiences during my day-to-day life. The top of a mountain peak, the edge of a cliff, that warm partner on the cold 3 a.m. walk, the lip-smacking chole bhature, that stunning piece of architecture, the captivating live performance…

I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I think it’s a combination of things. A bit of wanting to surrender myself completely to the moment, some hesitance in attempting to replicate something so unique, and the feeling of futility in trying to capture and preserve the moment as a mere photograph. (This, by the way, is also why I’ve been reluctant (so far) to share photos from two recent influential and extremely stimulating trips to Hampi and Fatehpur Sikri.)

Yet this insecurity of doing justice to a real, lived moment lies at the heart of my fascination with art. When you stop trying to document the entirety of your emotions and choose instead to express, to tell a storyyour story—is when art shines best. And I have nothing but admiration for the artists who manage this feat.

Be it a tweet, a painting, a book, a photograph or even a film, there are always constraints. The great storytellers manage their way around—nay, embrace these constraints, and they do it so well that they’re able to evoke emotions so vague and diverse that you might just find yourself pointing to their work to indicate the way you feel.

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