I write about photography, and I write about how it has influenced my life. But you could just about substitute anyone or anything that you love for “photography” and whatever I write will still be equally true. And you and I both know that often I don’t write about photography at all. I just use my photographs and juxtapose them with words to say what I have to say. Sometimes I don’t even know what to say. But I know that there remains something to be said – you know that feeling deep within your heart of unsaid words bound and shackled by reason, yet overwhelmed by passion we let them escape. So I let them out, I allow myself to say whatever comes into my heart, I create photographs that hopefully reflect my feelings, and use words that describe how I felt. Maybe there will be a day when I’ll quote Ansel Adams and be quiet: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Until then, I shall photograph, I shall write.
When a musician tunes his instrument before a concert or performance he touches it gently, longingly, almost as a mother would hold her child, that same expression, the same caress, wondering what next? That is just how I feel when I touch my camera. Wondering what next. Wondering if I’ll ever be able to say what remains unsaid within my heart. It is a feeling of unspoken words, it is a feeling of falling in love. It is a feeling of being in love. And you know it is true when each day you feel more in love.
It is a feeling that even with all my words I find it difficult to describe. I can’t define love. I can only feel it. But the closest was when someone questioned me as to how would I describe a photograph of mine which I really love. And I said that I love a photograph when after I make it and step away, I feel as if I have left something behind, an indelible part of me, and ironically, paradoxically, contrarily, that is when I feel even more complete and willing and ready to leave a bit of myself yet again with someone, someplace. Isn’t that how love is?
Allow me to explain. About a week back, I’d gone to Old Delhi to photograph and in one of the many lanes that crisscross that part of Delhi I came across this man who was sitting in a shaft of light in the morning sun, in an otherwise dark, dusty, dingy lane. As I always do, I chatted with him for a while about what he does, made a couple of photographs of his friend who was also there while talking to him and then finally asked him if I could photograph him. Getting a yes, I made this photograph.
Now I might be wrong but to me he looked dejected, sad, forlorn, lonely, tired early in the morning and I wondered why. It touched me. So I sat down again with him, shoulder-to-shoulder and spoke with him a bit longer…and then after a few minutes he reached out for my hand, held it gently in his surprisingly soft hands and whispered: “God bless you”. He meant it. And I felt love. I can tell you honestly that I would tradeoff that moment and those words from a “stranger” for every photograph I ever made. And then he smiled and I stepped up to capture that frozen in time.
I could describe all of this in more words that could possibly fill many pages, but if you close your eyes and reflect, you’ll feel just what I felt. As Einstein said: “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.”
So I open myself each day to give love – unconditional love, because it is only then that I am loved. I am not perfect, but I promise I try. Because it is only then that I fall in love.
Again. And again. And again.