On logos, on perfection

This is my first post of 2013. I’ve had writers block – quite literally so. Across the last few weeks I have been meaning to write, but even the opening line has been difficult. So I said to myself: “Why not just say it as it is?” Isn’t it so strange that I don’t know what to write, yet here I am typing away on my keyboard, whispering to myself, hoping that some words will come to me? And as I think of what I am doing right now, I recognize that much of my photography is the same way – there isn’t conscious thought involved. Only the pressing need, just the burning desire, to tell a story.

I’m not stopping to think and ponder now; I’ve done that across weeks. This is the time to write, and because I don’t know what I have to say or want to say, I am going through some recent photographs in Delhi. As I see my photography of late, I realize it has changed a lot. My subjects, the people I photograph, my composition, pretty much everything – nothing seems like what it was when I started. The same is the case with me. I am no longer the same.

I’ve got it. Change. That is what this will be about. This blog I mean. Change always reminds me of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said that change was central to the Universe, and he came up with the term logos in Western philosophy, which meant both the source and the fundamental order of the Cosmos. Interestingly, in ordinary Greek, the meaning of logos went beyond this to notions such as language, statement, conversation, principle etc.  And you see, there are no coincidences in life; logos to me also means what my photography is about – my language, the words I want to say but which elude me, and so I let my photographs be those words.

This change in me is evident in the images I create. I photograph now from within my soul. Not with my eyes. I photograph because it is spiritual to me. It no longer is just a passion. And what better way to see the change within than use my photographs as milestones along this journey. I have slowly begun to minimize what I have in my photographs.  Be it the subject, or even perhaps what is captured within the frame. This is how my life has been of late. As Leonardo da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” My attempt is now to lead a simple, uncluttered life. I don’t want to be fettered with much. I have started giving away much of what I have, with the notable exceptions of my books and my music, and of course my camera. I have started sharing. And the more I give, the more I receive…

I used to be unapologetically self-centered in many ways. I always wanted to receive – giving (or even sharing) was the toughest call of all. Whatever I earned was mine and mine alone. I had everything and more. But did I do things for people who weren’t as fortunate as me? Unequivocally no.  If I were in a relationship, I wanted everything my way. I’ve changed all that. At least I think so. And guess what – I think the biggest hurdle to change was the thought that always held me back: “What will people say? They’ll say, he can’t ever change. He has always been this way. So why should I change?” 

But I needed to change. I had to see the difference between ebony and ivory.

So then there came a time in my life where everything changed. It has been called by many names – watershed moment, turning point, epiphany etc. To me it was the time when I finally started believing deep within that there was a Power far greater than me. Someday, maybe someday, I will write about this also. Don’t get me wrong – I am not religious – far from it actually. I am just a believer. And that changes how the game is played. The game is played where He wants me to play, not where I want. The game is played when He wants me to play, not when I want to play. And the game is played according to His rules, not mine. And when I understand all of this, I sleep better at night. Because I did it, the best way that I could.

I also had this desire to be perfect, the best at everything that I did. It isn’t possible. I couldn’t see my own flaws even though the reflection in the mirror said it all. Today I realize how profound and deep the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the Airman’s Odyssey are: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”  And we all know that day when there will be nothing left to take away, will be when I will stand on Judgment before my Master, my Creator. And that day I pray, I am able to say staring into His eyes: Yes, I changed.

These are just some thoughts:

On logos, on perfection.

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  1. Katie January 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Hello, I have recently seen and experienced some rather big changes in my life as well. Like you, I am not a religious person but I have always been quite spiritual and believed that there was something bigger outside of our human existence. I realized over the last few years I had lost that spiritual connection that was my saving grace. I was given all of these wonderful opportunities but they held no joy or since of pride for me. I became quite closed off to the world and as a result, so did my photography. I believe that time in my life is over now. I have let my walls down (starting to) , I have opened my mind and thoughts and soul to the universe. And I must tell you, the ‘change’ I’ve seen in my world, in my own experience has been immediate. When you allow yourself to be open to peace and unconditional love it flows through you without a second thought. The word, atonement, has become significant to me; when you atone for the mistakes you’ve made in life, hurtful words you’ve said, judgments you’ve harshly given, you are recognizing where you went wrong and the recognition of that allows for a new path free of regret, fear and anxiety to be laid at your feet. That is what has happened for me and it seems for you as well.
    I basically just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your post today and to let you know that there is someone out here in the universe wishing you inner peace and an abundance of love….always.


  2. jaitri acharya January 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    :-) regard’s …enjoyed….. on logos….

  3. Susan Aurinko January 20, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    My thoughts on yours, Debesh. Resisting change, which is organic and natural, just gets you into a bad place. The Universe, call it whatever name you please, has a plan for each of us, and to resist that plan because we don’t like change is futile. The Universe teaches and offers gifts every day, but if our eyes are closed, or turned inward, we will never hear it’s whisper, or even the shout that often goes unnoticed.
    When I speak of the photographer’s eye, it has nothing to do with looking or capturing, it has to do with feeling the story, feeling the image, from the very depth of your soul, from your heart as it beats its steady rhythm. (But if we really listen, it beats a little faster when that perfect picture gives itself to us.) The dialogue that matters is the one we have with ourselves and the Universe. Other people are superfluous to this dialogue.
    I was recently given an enormous compliment in a review of a group exhibition that my work from India was a part of:
    “And then there is Susan Aurinko, the only art photographer in “Around the World”, whose muted color studies of the old quarters of Indian cities are decidedly impressionist, as though we were enveloped by an alien sense of place. Aurinko had to be there and surrender her senses to the scene.”
    I have never been as gratified as I was when I read the last sentence. Surrender – it’s ALL about surrender, people… Let it go and it will be yours.

  4. Susan Aurinko January 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Also need to say that I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the last photo – All of India in one image…

  5. Elena January 20, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Well photography is in itself transformatory – if you manage to take it over the “pretty picture” endeavours and pixels-and-lenses fretting – it opens your third eye, that Jhana that Lord Shiva was depicted with … it lets you see unity and undifferentiated reality though the mundane manifested world … and though the flesh and blood of people that you photograph you see the eternal part of Universal Soul that will go on living after they are dead … therefore you also start to change … However, for me the most prominent emotion associated with change now is fear … i struggle for courage and so often forget that courage is not something that you need to put your head in a lion’s mouth – it can be a quiet voice telling me before i fall asleep – You will try again tomorrow. I know that amazing things will happen if i just don’t give up … so i’ll try again, and maybe fail, but i won’t quit to dream big, and be grateful …

  6. Heidger Marx January 21, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    Dear Debesh, thank you so much for being you and letting us be a part of your awe-inspiring transformation! Thank you for reminding us of some of the most amazing examples of your latest work and accompanying it with this wonderful, deep and resonating thoughts!

    Your thoughts give rise to so many thoughts of which I only want to share a few here…..

    From the first images of Ladakh that I have seen from you (and they were stunning!) to your latest work from Varanasi and Delhi, your change, no more your inner transformation is imminent, dear Debesh!

    We can’t resist change, as some of the earlier commentators already mentioned so wittingly. There is one analogy of change that I like a lot: change means flowing down a river as a little drop of water, sometimes being in rough water, even in a waterfall! Sometimes we steer or we are steered in more peaceful waters, feeling like meanders or pools that almost seem to stand still. But nevertheless, we are always floating down to the ocean, just to be united with all other water that there is. Call it oneness, call it eternal bliss, whatever works best for you.
    And there is no certain believe required for this! (and you have just given me a great idea for my next blog…!)

    If we want to receive, we have to give first, unconditionally. It is not “You gave me, now I can open myself up and give you, but only because you gave me FIRST..!”. The seed of unconditional love that we are planting in the course of things is what makes this world go around, what makes this world a wonderful place to live and what brings us an unexplainable amount of harvest, over and over again.

    Be well my friend and thank you again!
    – heidger

  7. Leslie S January 21, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    It was good to hear your words of wisdom again, Debesh. I’ve missed hearing from you….Leslie

  8. Greg Buck January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Another wonderful page from Debesh. Even though you have found it difficult to write, you have forged ahead gallantly.

    Nice images on this page Debesh, Your usual quality standards.

    Thank you my friend for sharing your thoughts and wisdom.

    Greg Buck

  9. sonika January 21, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    i read somewhere the other day, that the mirror lies….photographs don’t….also…that you learn more about a person in an hour of play or work , than you do by being with them for years……Takes my mind back to the photograph i made of you…..the journey from the first time we stepped out to shoot to “that” image…..the “change” is evident……the journey is evident….when YOU shoot…you exist in a bubble of your own thoughts …..which, you are right….has nothing to do with passion….and everything to do with your thoughts….which may or may not be spiritual but the process most definitely is …….
    which is why ……its more perfect to click that shutter two steps late……:)

    there is zero pretense there….

    I remember the day and the moments when these 3 images were taken….and i have to confess…i am awestruck….simply awestruck by what your mind saw and felt …..and captured this , within half a second ….brilliant really….

    Have loved reading susan’s and everybody’s replies here….absolutely…and your reply in the last blog …..thank you….for the journey too….i am often accused of being too emotional …..yes i am …i can’t help it…..i have stopped trying to explain or justify it…..i feel…what i feel….yes , there is a change in me too…..earlier , when i photographed…when a frame would overwhelm me…or make me cry…..i focused more on what my story was..my emotions….now…i focus equally on the story, the emotions of the people i capture…..more often than not , i get caught up in moments , soaking in them endlessly …therefore technically my images are a disaster …..

    love blogs that make one think….:)

  10. Paulomi January 21, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Once again, a beautifully written piece, along with some beautifully made photographs.. and as always, they made me sit back and introspect on myself and my life. Thank you so much for sharing, Debesh.

  11. Mauverneen January 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Once again your words echo the thoughts in my own soul. Thank you Debesh, for sharing.

  12. Satya January 22, 2013 at 7:23 am #


    Hope you will take my view, though not aligned with yours, in the spirit it was written.

    Change one must, when one feels the need to. One must also be convinced with a conscious need for such change.

    I, for one, do not think change is imposed on you by anyone, least of all the creator, lest there be one. Yes, the unexpected happens in life, which may lead to a change, but I do not think it is anyone’s design. To act out your desires or your thoughts, all you need is willpower. I am sure you hope, as I do, that all such acts are generally for the good of all things alive, whether near or far from us.

    I changed recently too, by becoming a vegetarian, not influenced by any religion or anyone’s teachings, but from an honest belief that my hunger should not be satisfied at the cost of another life. If such a change comes from within, then its not by design, but by consciousness.

  13. Caroline January 23, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    Enjoyed your thoughts and images. Thank you for sharing Debesh. Be well.

  14. Laura Kaczmarek January 23, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Hello, Debesh – what a wonderful post, with such beautiful images! I especially love the last image (I’m partial to color images.) Your willingness to share such deep, personal, and honest thoughts with us continues to amaze me. Change (growth) can, indeed, be very difficult. I believe, as you do, that it happens when it is supposed to happen. When I try to “make” things happen in my time, it seems that things inevitably go awry; but when I relax, let it go, maybe pray about it, I find that everything works out just the way it was meant to. “Thy will be done”. This was a long, hard lesson to learn, as I suspect it is for most people, and that’s okay. No one of us is perfect, as you mentioned. The point is to grow along spiritual lines; progress, not perfection! Nice to see you, my friend!

  15. steve January 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    The mystery that is life .. is made even more ellusive by the mystery that is us .. our minds, forever looking for meaning and reason in everything. What is the purpose, what is the plan, what is the design?? surely, there must be one. Than you have vents that snatch everything frm the best and give to the worst kind of people and you wonder. Oh no, say the wise ones. Just wait, the day of reckoning is nigh; they will pay in unseen ways for their wickedness. ..”Blessd are the meek. . “etc.
    I have no answers but perhaps the present is all we have and there is no design, noplan. Random events like a handfull of pea hurled up and some land close and some far and some form or pattren can be seen but beforehand can’t be foretold. So, dos it mean we do not dream or hope for magic in our lives? No, we must for that is the key to striving and making a little difference somewhere, to someone. Love holds the key, because true love is about others and not about ourselves. True love is about helping another (person or thing, plant) grow and blossom. There can be no greater satisfaction in the world, “For it is in giving that we receive…”

  16. sonika January 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    was walking outside and remembering susan’s reply here….had to come back and re read it ….she has worded it …explained it so perfectly —-

    “surrender her senses to the scene ”
    ” when the perfect picture presents itself to us ”

    these two emotions just overlap …merge beautifully in my heart……

  17. Debesh February 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Dear Katie,

    Thank you so much for such kind words. There is indeed something, even someone maybe, much larger than us – that is for sure what I believe in. Once that connection is established, everything in this world as we know it changes. That connection also begins the moment we let those walls crumble, as you have indeed. I resonate with your words: “The word, atonement, has become significant to me; when you atone for the mistakes you’ve made in life, hurtful words you’ve said, judgments you’ve harshly given, you are recognizing where you went wrong and the recognition of that allows for a new path free of regret, fear and anxiety to be laid at your feet. That is what has happened for me and it seems for you as well.” Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts, and I hope to be in touch with you.

    Thanks so much Jaitri.

    Susan, you have expressed it beautifully. I also do believe that to be able to feel is the only way to photograph. I haven’t photographed long, you know that, but I am glad I happen to be on the right track of photographing with the heart and not with merely the eyes. Surrender – well, that could be the subject of another blog someday. I have much to say on that and completely agree with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Elena, you say the most beautiful things to me. Yes, photography is a transformation of the inner self – it is a spiritual pursuit for me. And I must confess, that the metaphor that you have used of the “third eye” expresses it most appropriately. “Unity and undifferentiated reality though the mundane manifested world … and though the flesh and blood of people that you photograph you see the eternal part of Universal Soul that will go on living after they are dead” – how wonderful how eloquent. Thank you for reminding me to dream.

    Heidger my friend, I always wait for your thoughts and you should know that by now. I respect you not only as a photographer but also as a sensitive and caring human being, whom while I haven’t met, yet I know. Thank you for the reaffirmation that I am on the right path my friend. I am waiting for the day when we photograph together – hopefully if things go as planned, that wait shan’t be too long.

    Thank you so much Leslie. Good to hear from you again.

    Greg: Sir, it is always so lovely to hear from you. As always I have delayed thanking you, so please accept my apologies. I hope you’re keeping well and I look forward to being in touch with you. My best to you always.

    Thank you so much Paulomi, Caroline and Mauverneen. I really appreciate your time in reading and commenting. It means a lot to me that you spare time to be here and share your thoughts with me.

  18. Debesh February 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Sonika, our discussions are unending, for obvious reasons. Yes, the process is spiritual – that is the only way I know how to photograph. I do not know really whether my photographs are brilliant or not, but what I can say for each and every one of them, that they are an indelible part of me that felt them at that point of time as I pressed the shutter release. Keep photographing the way you do. You will see the change real soon – that I promise you.

    Satya my friend, feel free to say what you think and believe. I would be most happy for thoughts which don’t align with mine as you say. I might be entirely wrong for that matter and am happy to admit it. Without lapsing into the realm of semantics, I do believe attainment of consciousness is also by deign – but that is something we can discuss for ages. Thank you so much again my friend, and I’d be happy for you to write in whenever you can.

    Thanks a lot Laura – it has been a while since we have communicated, and it is so good to hear from you. “Thy will be done” – this is so difficult to practice, but the moment we take that into cognizance, everything changes. Yes, progress not perfection – that is the mantra.

    Steve, we need to discuss this in your next trip this side my friend. There is no randomness I believe, neither is there madness without a method. All we can do is to do the best that we can as you so rightly have said. Indeed, it is in giving that we shall receive…stay safe my friend. God bless.

  19. neelam November 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    Very nicely written…so much of it echoed with me..the change part..it is a monumental shift once a person embraces change..thanks for sharing your insight..though on lighter side of things…why him,he..maybe it could be a she and her….:)

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