C’est la vie

Many of you have written to me wondering where I am (or was) across the last month or thereabouts; to most I have replied, but for those who wrote in the past few days.  I’ve been out for four weeks and more – much of it on work, but some for photography. I’d headed to Jaipur, followed by Lucknow and then Benares as I prefer to call the city (or Varanasi, as it is contemporarily known). After this this was the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad, then Jodhpur and finally Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

I’ll write about each of those places by and by, but for now I just thought I’d write a few lines on how I feel at this moment as I type. Not so good really – in fact, dejected. I’ve been going through my photographs of the Kumbh Mela and I have managed to mess up quite a few. Not because I couldn’t be in the right place at the right time (the “decisive moment” in other words, was right there in front of me) but because I completely messed up my camera settings, and yes, I messed those up on both days at the Kumbh.

It has never happened to me before this. This time was different. I was distracted.  I wasn’t quite there. I didn’t enter the zone. I forgot to see my camera settings before starting to photograph. I can’t believe I did this. And guess what – no one will be able to figure that out from the photographs I post here now. But I am writing this. Why? Because my blog for me is my confession, my diary – a place where I am completely honest, naked in thought and expression. Because this post will remind me that along with these photographs, there are many more which I should have got, but didn’t.  Because these words will tell me that I don’t photograph for anyone else but for myself. And only I know the truth as it exists, as it really is, and not how it appears to be.

And it gets even better – I don’t wear my glasses when photographing. I don’t see my images on the camera (I might later at some point of time, but it is much after the point of no return when I have walked away from the scene), I don’t look at the histogram; most times I don’t even see the settings in the viewfinder. My entire focus is on what is within that frame. I am actually lost in another world. I set the aperture and approximate shutter speed, which I then change while paying attention to the sound of the shutter (but this time at Kumbh the ambient noise far overwhelmed the sound of the shutter). Yes, I know it is a strange way to photograph. I know that. But I photograph with instinct. I photograph from my heart and my soul. The camera ceases to exist when I photograph. I mean that.

So now at this point of time, I want nothing to do with either my camera or photography, but here I am writing this blog, again from my heart. I am not perfect, and I admit it openly. Even to those who believe that I know how to photograph, here is my confession – I don’t. Not at this moment anyway.

But yet I know, I’ll be at it again. I’ll again not see the photograph on the camera or the histogram for that matter; I’ll again use the sound of the shutter as a guide. Yes, I’ll do it all over again because that is the only way I know how to photograph – with instinct and my heart and soul. With love.

You see, it is love, when you return even as it pains and hurts.

C’est la vie.

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12 Comments

  1. Chuck Kuhn February 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Debesh, this is what I love about you. Honesty and able to express. I know how you feel because guess what..I shoot the same way. NO glasses, but I need them, so I have no idea what I shot until I download later. When time comes around for this adventure again…I want to go with you. It would be the most exciting trip and friendship that I could image. Two good photographers who can’t see or hear a thing, but manage to show for themselves and PEOPLE adore our pictures. Best to you, I’ve been in your shoes.

    And it gets even better – I don’t wear my glasses when photographing. I don’t see my images on the camera (I might later at some point of time, but it is much after the point of no return when I have walked away from the scene), I don’t look at the histogram; most times I don’t even see the settings in the viewfinder. My entire focus is on what is within that frame. I am actually lost in another world. I set the aperture and approximate shutter speed, which I then change while paying attention to the sound of the shutter (but this time at Kumbh the ambient noise far overwhelmed the sound of the shutter). Yes, I know it is a strange way to photograph. I know that. But I photograph with instinct. I photograph from my heart and my soul. The camera ceases to exist when I photograph. I mean that.

    • Vineeta Yashswi February 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      I was surfing in net and came across to your site…I like your post on Allahabad Kumbha mela… I was also there and got clicked some pictures, so i can feel everything about the post… Good work…

  2. sonika February 26, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    When i read the part about you feeling distracted …..i felt a tad guilty because i know …to some extent my presence there may have contributed to it…because even without meaning to , knowing you….you did feel responsible about us among 30 million other people….
    thank you …..once again……for all of it……

    Now let me take your mind and heart back to that moment……back to that morning of mauni amavasya…..all that walking from our room at 3 for the next hour and a half….YOU convincing those police guys to let us through….YOU navigating us through the 30 million ..and telling us to roll under the fence…YOU making sure we got to that press platform…YOU taking off with the nagas when most photographers didn’t dare to……back to your words and your emotions ……i quote —-

    ” even if i don’t get a single good photo out of this……i am so on top of the world , this was worth it simply for the experience ”

    and it was…..wasn’t it….? I KNOW it overwhelmed and moved you…….i know because you shoot from that heart and soul…..that is why i am totally skipping that paragraph about you not wearing specs while shooting or shooting based on the shutter speed …..i know you do….i know because of the endless times you have checked me about shutter speed after i have clicked based on the sound of my shutter……that camera is a part of you….as simple as that…..

    I haven’t seen your kumbh images and i can bet they are brilliant….you just set too high a standard for yourself…..some inherent quality/flaw …….and even if you messed a few…..once again…..that ansel adams line about what contributes a good day ….

    love all these images….the colour ….the clarity…..the hues have come out fabulous …! my favorite is the third one …..and i really laughed when i saw his eyes….because i think he is looking towards right ….at my camera….and when i finally clicked…he is looking left in my photograph…probably towards you…..:):)

    i just go through the memories ….each one at a time…..and cannot stop smiling…photography or not…..:):)

  3. Dudley Danielson February 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Don’t be so hard on your self! (Note the exclamation point!)
    We’ve all been there. When I shot my very first wedding with all my notes on a small pad then proceded to make a critical error that caused each suceeding image to be either totally wiped out or so overexposed that it was unusable. I can recall thinking that my career was over forever. The Bride and Groom were kind to me and I have almost never-ever failed to check and recheck my settings since. Be nice to yourself today. Have a hot fudge sundae if you can find one, lie back in a hammock, walk in the surf, give a loved one a kiss and enjoy the moment.

  4. Dudley Danielson February 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    P.S. These shots are spectacular! RELAX!

  5. Maureen Blevins February 26, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    It’s happens to all of us at some point Debesh. But the most important thing is that you were there! You had the experience. Every one of those scenes is there – in your head and in your heart. You experienced.

  6. Heidger Marx February 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Dear Debesh,
    may I venture to say that this was actually a great experience for you? There are no mistakes, you didn’t make a mistake by not checking your camera’s settings, by not checking the image on the screen afterwards, it was a well needed humbling experience.
    Your honesty is what speaks volumes and I personally think that your images still prove amazing photographic skills, whatever you might think.

    We have all been there, I guess. If not, it is time to get there rather fast then slow! When I was getting up to shoot the Teppam Festival in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, my workhorse camera in those days failed on me for the very first time and I had to default back to my mediocre to capture the images for my agency in London. Were they as good as they would have been with the camera that I intended to use? No, but I didn’t give up and I used what I had to do the job (well, afterwards I travelled frantically through Southern India to make sure that my camera would be operational again, not an easy feat when you travel on a schedule…). As you might remember the same happened again the day before the Holi Festival in Rajasthan. Coincidence? I can hardly believe that.
    Looking back, it was the BEST thing that could have happened, it was humbling and detaching, it made me realize what was truly important. It wasn’t that one shot, that specific frame, it is HOW you deal with a situation, always.

    Hope this provides some consolation for you, my friend!
    – heidger

  7. Caroline February 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    Do not be hard on yourself. This is spectacular. Relax and enjoy the experience. Be well.

  8. Dominique February 27, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    i never read your blog but i love when you say that you use the shutter as your guide. One of the great things about photography is that it puts you in the present. I think it’s important that sometimes i just have to stop photographing because i get so focused on certain things that i can not experience the totality of an event, emerging completely especially for such a spiritual experience.

  9. Cyretha February 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Debesh,
    Photography is a bit like golf. Everytime you go out you want to do better than the last time. Sometimes you have a bad round and almost feel like throwing the clubs away, but you remember the one shot that made your day, so you return as soon as possible, excited about trying to repeat that great shot. Photo sessions are similar, sometimes we come back with great images and sometimes not. Both situations inspire us to return with camera in hand. Just remember each photo session is a learning experience.

    As many have said, relax and enjoy each experience.

  10. Michael February 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    I’ve done this… and like with your images here, most folks probably couldn’t tell how bad it really was after I made (a ton of) adjustments in post.

    Today I saw some spectacular photography displayed in a magazine along-side some of my own images… and I was momentarily heartbroken.

    All I saw, all I felt in that moment, was that in comparison my stuff didn’t hold up. Not even a little.

    I mulled that over for too long before I finally came to the conclusion that it was a great lesson for me. I didn’t tell the story as well as I would have liked. The imagery and the verbiage weren’t up to the standard I set for myself. I need to work harder, learn more and continue to develop both my photography and my writing if I am going to be happy with this photography thing.

    We all need to learn, to grow, to move forward. It is what it is my friend.

    In the end we really are making images for ourselves and if there is any other motivation I think it’s probably misplaced.

    Now, ALL THAT being said, I’ve really enjoyed these images here and on FB!

  11. Debesh April 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    My latest post will tell all of you where I have been missing for a while now…anyway it is great to be back in the land of the living once again.

    Chuck, after having seen your work on Facebook and being in touch with you, what you say comes as no surprise to me. I’d be happy for us to photograph together whenever it can happen. I know, for a fact, that it would be really delightful.

    Thanks so much Vineeta – yes, the experience was both inspiring and overwhelming.

    Sonika, you’re right in that and I still feel the same way. Yet nothing can ever take away the feeling of, should I say, dejection when you mess up images, more so when it has never happened ever. You do know how I prepare for a shoot, but then ces’t la vie. I have a few photographs (I think) which will find their way onto the drawing board. And it was great to have you there too.

    Thanks so much for the encouragement and your kind words Dudley! I did chill out after this for a while and now I am back again ready to photograph as I knew I would be.

    Thank you Maureen – you are too kind, and I really appreciate being in touch with you. It is always nice to hear from you.

    Heidger, yes sir, it was an incredible, unbelievable experience and it is an indelible memory with me. I am brutally honest in my photography, and that has also changed how I approach things in life – the symbiosis of it all. Thanks again for the encouragement and it is always great to connect with you. Hopefully we shall photograph together and that too, real soon.

    Thanks a lot Caroline. I appreciate your kind words.

    Isn’t that the most wonderful thing about photography Dominique? The power of the present, of the now? I do believe that once behind the viewfinder, everything else ceases to exist but that which is within the frame, and it is such a liberating experience to forget all else but what you actually feel, not what you see.

    I agree Cyretha – having played golf for a while, I know just what you mean. Thanks a lot, and good to always hear from you. Take care and be well my friend.

    Michael, it is so hard to believe that an exceptionally talented photographer as you could have done this, but then I take comfort and solace in the fact that I am not alone as many have said. Thank you for the words you have used: “We all need to learn, to grow, to move forward. It is what it is my friend.” I need to remember those. And thank you for the compliments as well.

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