On Anxieties and Growing pains

imagesI met Mary Ellen mark, when I barged into her workshop for Friends of Photography in Varanasi. I think it was 1986. She made me her teaching assistant so i could attend the workshop which I could not afford. One of the most important advice she gave me, was to be very careful whom I showed my work too.She said to choose the 2-3 people carefully and then one had to listen to them entirely. Their praise and their criticism. Especially at the very early stage, when one is nurturing a new idea, finding a form for that new thought, the more people you show it to, the more confused you will be.

Also it is very likely that you start to follow the imagery that gets the most ‘likes’ when that is a sure way to know that you are doing something mainstream and I would dare to say even mediocre. It means you are not pushing the limits.

Ofcourse in the begining we look to other photographers, we are inspired by them, and gradually there comes a time when you still appreciate them but you find your own voice, your own way.No one can find that way for you.

That is the point I would wish for you, nudge you too and that means not asking me to look at your work. I would never be fully appreciative of your work, as I am never of my own work. I always see what more there is to do. It is a long process, full of disappointments and anxieties. You have to live those, no one can bring you out of them, except your work. They are the ‘growing pains’. And you have to live them.

I rarely showed my work to photographers, they were not my ‘mentors’. But I did know my Photo history really well and was conscious of the ‘movements’ that preceded.

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In 1992 I met Walter Keller, who went on to be the most significant voice in my head. He told me ” I have no doubt you will be a great photographer one day, you have all that it takes, but dont get involved in making books and exhibitions, they will drain your energy. Especially do not run for Photography awards. Just photograph as much as you can while you are young and enthusiastic. The rest can all wait.” Somehow I listened to him and today I have an archive of 30 years, much of it still untapped. I made the Mona book with him 10 years later in 2002.

I do not know if I have the skills to make you understand these two advices, but they have and still continue to guide me. And believe me, if you are pushing limits( how soever minute in the larger picture), there is always anxiety. Infact when it is not there, then its something to worry about, because then that dreaded word, complacency is setting in. The death of an artist, in my book.

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On Anxieties and Growing pains

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