Is Photography Free ?

Shot in Mobile phone

19th August, is known as World Photography Day. There is a history behind this day. On August 19, 1839 the French government purchased the patent of Daguerreotype process of photography and announced the invention as a gift “free to the world”.
Since the day I got associated with camera and photography, people said that equipment doesn’t matter for good photography. Its your visual power that matters. They were partially right. Equipment doesn’t matter for good photography which the people of this world took pretty literally. Mobile phone is also a photography equipment in the twenty first century.
Pin hole, followed by TLR, and then came the 35mm.It was thereafter that I started my photography at the fag end of 35mm black and white film rolls and manual SLR cameras. Gradually the world shifted to electronic SLR cameras with auto focus and auto exposure, making photography more easier and leaving more scope for photographers to play with his subjects than the manual adjustments. Then some day we all picked up digital cameras. No film rolls, no spending of time and money on processing. Most photographers took time to accept the digitisation of an art form which they eliticised behind manual photography. Some were concerned about the storage of photographs too. All had to accept … 

I don’t know if any body will ever praise my good focusing ability but will definitely criticise if I spoil one photo clicking it out of focus. Exposure to me is to make my subjects visible and nothing more. Does anybody want to see a perfectly focused and well exposed photograph of a boring subject or a dull moment ? I don’t think so. Let  technology do its job and I will do mine. For me the moment and subject are more important. Its my view which can and must differ with others. One of my colleagues once denied to appreciate a good photograph just because it was clicked using a DSLR camera and not an all time popular Nikon FM2. In the initial days of digital camera, even the clients refused to pay more as no extra cost is involved like film developing and printing.
With time we have all upgraded our DSLR cameras to Mirror-less DSLR and made a software an extension to it. Today, Photoshop is equally important if not more than photography. In the film age there were people who used to manipulate the prints under the enlarger and they have just digitised their manipulations in a computer. No worries if we have added or missed out something in the frame unknowingly, we have a software to support it. Expertise in photoshop denotes ones photography talents in this digital era. It did scare the fraternity when it started reigning in photojournalism. Great photographers took refuge in this software in the name of story, killing all the ethics and people’s trust in journalism.
Then suddenly we saw exponential increase in the number of photographers in the streets. In the aggressive marketing battle between the camera and the mobile phone manufacturers the latter has won but photography has lost.
Every single person has a mobile phone and all of them are potential photographers.

In wedding photography, clients are still obsessed with the camera models so mobile phones are yet to intrude in the Wedding photography industry.
Once a client asked a wedding photographer which camera model will he use in the wedding? To charge some extra the photographer said, Canon 5D mark-VIII and added this is the newest model and yet to release. There is no such camera model in the market and nowhere to release. The client was very elated and booked the photographer immediately. On the day of wedding, the photographer used a sticker on his existing camera to make it appear as 5D mark-VIII. Every time the client met the photographer during the event, he showed the camera to his guests to gain attention and appreciation.
In fashion photography they can’t afford a mobile phone instead of a camera because of the detail they need to capture. They use different formats to match the glamour attached to the profession.
The so called torch bearers of photojournalism has compromised the quality of a news photograph and hence allowed mobile phones to replace the cameras. When, I was in Mumbai, we were asked to Whatsapp the photos of the events for the immediate release in the website and then email the camera output for print edition. The so called perfectionists have accepted photos from the video grab and low resolution social media downloads over the one from camera. The media houses have approved the use of mobile phones by the news reporters over the photographers. The social media has worsened the situation for the photojournalists. In the newspapers or even in websites, one can find hardly any vertical photograph. Do you know why? because our news portals have a fixed format and that supports only the horizontal ones, in the print editions they need to allot more space for a vertical frame and its needless to say that space in newspapers are costlier than diamonds. Hence a huge part of photography is lost. The entire profession of photojournalism has been compromised leaving hundreds of photographers vulnerable. Photojournalism is the only wing of photography which has suffered the most due to digitisation and social media.
Today if you want to be a good wedding photographer, learn how to arrange a “Candid” shot. If you want to be a fashion photographer, learn to spend more time in networking, which makes sense. If you want to be a photojournalist, learn how to use your mobile photo editing apps, how to buy Instagram followers and obviously how to lick the expensive shoes of your boss. But never forget to show off with the actual camera. Oh sorry, if possible learn how to capture the moments too.

I being a great supporter of digital photography want to still give a thought whether this digitisation is for the better. Earlier photographers used to look for a good well composed meaningful photograph, now everyone is looking for a photograph in a literal sense. No one is bothered about the composition, story, inner meaning, humour, moment or even the reason behind clicking a photograph.
Today, photography is “free to the world” in its truest sense.

Text & Photos : ARIJIT SEN


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