I’ve designed my own website from scratch and had it up and running just this evening. Sure It has taken me the better part of the last two days to learn web-design from knowing it as well as an Eskimo is fluent in Swahili, almost sleepless nights with a few hours of turbulence, tossing and turning, missed meals, but though I am bleary-eyed, quite contrarily I am also wide-eyed and bushy tailed. I am really happy, and let me write about this. But then why would I want to write about my escapade (adventure?) of designing a website in my photoblog? What’s the similarity you might say? Well, lots actually.
When I saw the predesigned template for my blog, I wasn’t happy. Now don’t misunderstand me. It did my job, and it did it pretty well; I wanted to only write after all, and upload some images and albums and galleries. The usual shindig. But yet, the absence of zing nagged me. I kept pestering the website designers to tweak this, add that, change this a little, adjust that a lot. I knew what I wanted and tried to tell them, but they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand. This happened for quite a while. That’s when I gave up on the geeks. It’s pretty much the same thing when I make an “ordinary” photograph. When I see the image, even though it might look “good” and does the job (like my website did) of “capturing the moment”, I don’t feel happy, that feeling of being wowed is missing. Sure I have that “beautiful-by-all-standards” photograph with tack sharp focus or great bokeh either which way, amazing color, balanced contrast etc., but there is no emotion. It’s a snapshot in time, not a photograph, not a creation. It just doesn’t move me. It’s the difference between ersatz and real. I want to be moved, whether to tears or to unbridled laughter doesn’t matter. But touch me within.
And why couldn’t the designers understand what I wanted? Maybe my language was different, I didn’t know techno-speak, or maybe I couldn’t express what I needed. Again such déjà vu with photography. Ever so often people who see images I create don’t really appreciate those I find the best, and for some strange reason I can’t fathom what they find in what I would categorize as “ordinary”. Perhaps I couldn’t really express what I felt, or needed to say in my self-classified “best images”, and maybe in others there was a language that I didn’t understand, yet captured by accident. But let me not be so harsh on myself, maybe I did express what I felt, but people couldn’t understand me; so if they be my audience, then I need to speak to them and for them. Or should I really? I think not – I need to be true to myself which is why I designed my website on my own (returning to the subject at hand now, albeit briefly). I don’t make photographs for others, I do it for myself. If people like what I make, great; if not, that too is fine. People found my last website nice, but I wasn’t happy and it was for me after all. I don’t write or photograph professionally, and certainly not for others. I only do it because I love it. To thine own self be true.
Once the decision to do my own web design was made, the rest fell into place. What came next? I needed inspiration. I’ve written about this before I went to Ladakh in my post “This too shall pass” (http://debeshsharma.com/2012/04/this-too-shall-pass/). I studied websites of photographers, I looked at design sites, fashion and art for inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. Just what I did before I left for Ladakh to photograph. I studied before I went there. I saw photographs. I read about Buddhism. For no rhyme or reason, I saw maps of Ladakh. I had the times of sunrise and sunset with me. I thought of which places I would see on what day, and which were the best points-of-view and times to create images of those sights. I didn’t do what most would do – use the easy way out, and accept what you get, either a pre-designed web template or a snapshot in lieu of a photograph. I needed to create, and so I did.
Then I made notes on what I want within my website: which pages should I have, which images to upload, what hyperlinks to use, how should the content look and so on. This is precisely what I do before I go on a photography trip. I make notes. Where do I go? When? What do I want to make a photograph of? What is this place about? What can I express though my image which either hasn’t been shown before or if it has, then how can I be different? Even before I got to the programming and designing bit, I planned and much on the same lines, before I step out to make photographs, or attempt to touch my camera, I create. With a pen and a piece of paper, I create. Now for this photograph which I made from the air just prior to landing in Leh. For my inbound flight, I knew I should be on the starboard side of the aisle because as the plane would bank in for the final approach, I would have the Indus on my side with the sun just rising behind me and that would make for hopefully a beautiful landscape if all else went well. So that is where I checked in, front-row, window seat please, 2D thank you. And I didn’t forget my circular polarizer. Call it luck if you must, but as this apocryphal quote goes, “the harder I work, the luckier I get”.
Well you could argue that with all of this, I would lose spontaneity. No sirrie, not at all. While designing my website, and inputting codes and script in HTMLS, CSS, PHP and the works, I sometimes got unexpected results. Not necessarily bad, but unexpected. Having said that, I needed to know why what happened, did happen. So I explored, and investigated and learnt even more. Same is the case with photography. You see I could never cater for that errant cloud coming across the sun and spoiling that postcard sunset shot which I had planned for after climbing to 4550 m. But because I had planned, I knew of another vantage point near at hand. I was in a sense the pilot who knew an alternative route in bad weather. And because I had failed and experimented and tried, I knew a blurred photograph in low light isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs to be deliberate. The photograph that follows was a spontaneous one… as an interesting aside, this couple was very happy to have their photograph made and this gentleman did pretty much the entire pre-photo op routine including adjusting his headgear, and yes, straightening the badge on it too. There was another lady sitting next to them in a rather straightforward outfit who I sort of “forgot to include” while composing the frame. Isn’t that defined as spontaneity?
Even after all of this, some cynics (and critics) would be ready with the repartee “I don’t need all this”. To this I daresay, don’t use a euphemism for being mechanical about photography. Remember the only mechanism in this whole process is the camera! Because the moment it clicks, you become a creator, an inventor.
And you should rightfully then be able to say “Eureka”.