These are the tools of my trade, I have been using the same camera, same 80mm lens and same minolta light meter for almost 20 years. TRIX 400 is the film I have used  since I started photography in 1980. I know these tools like the back of my hand. To this photo I forgot to add the tripod. Though this keeps changing as they make lighter and lighter ones.

Each one of these help me slow down, they force me to pause between photos and before starting. They prepare me for making the image, like removing ones shoes before entering a room.

There is the ritual of loading the film, first the sound and pleasure of tearing open the roll, then fitting it in place, listening to the sound while forwarding to be sure it has not stuck in the sprocket, and then fitting the back onto the camera.Then taking the camera and aligning it onto the tripod, after having done the dance around what I was hoping to photograph, those stretches that force you to ever so slightly alter the frame.The light meter one could say I need not use after all these years. But I like the ritual of going upto what I am photographing, measuring the exact light reflecting of the skin of the subject, then calculating how I might like to use that information. Even though I can , after all these years, guess the exposure.Then I bend into my camera, and fix the focus Between the camera being jammed into my belly and the gravity of strap on my neck, bending over, I make a tripod out of my own body. I like photographing from the navel level over the conventional eye level, I like that I see an inverted image, and then the magic sound of the shutter, An image has been made.

I can make another 11 images, as the roll has 12 frames on it. In my bag I might have 3-4 more rolls for the day of an extensive shoot. I sort of ration myself, because there is only so much film that I can carry on a trip. I might take a second frame of the same situation, just to be safe for focus and or exposure. but rarely more than that.

Its possible that i might have 3 shoots on one roll of film of 12.

Then there is the wait for the film to be processed, and the contact sheets to come from the lab. I never look at them too closely at first, just a glance to check that everything is fine, and the customary look at the negs. A few days later I sit with them and my loop, I always get depressed that I could not ‘capture’ what I thought I had. It takes many months for me to separate the experience/emotion of making the image and what the image retained. Often a very large gap and it could be many years later that I ‘realise’ the image. So many of my images have 2 dates, the date of taking and the date of realising.

This realising of the image, often happens like a deja vu, of seeing the girl on the bed, recognising that I had been in that emotion before, returning to contact sheets of more than ten years and finding the go away closer images. Or yesterday, photographing the Kandalama hotel and suddenly wanting to rush back to sift through my contact sheets because I had made that same overgrown with nature building, somewhere outside Calcutta, and then again perhaps in Patna, but somewhere else too.

The contact sheet, the paper that has 12 images in it, make it impossible for me to think of images in isolation.I read images left to right, diagonally, and each viewing changes the meaning of that image. Infact the contact sheet was one of the inspirations for the form of Museum Bhavan. I value my library of contact sheets even more than the negatives archive.

As for digital photography, I LOVE it for instagram and to whatsapp photo secrets to friends.

I try to imagine a language of images, that illiterate people even could access and use, I think of developing such an app. I like that the wide angle on the phone camera allows me to get very close, and do macro photography.I am waiting for the phone camera to get even better and then will be the challenge to develop another form for digital, perhaps. After all on digital cameras, its just a button between still and movie!


Photography starts now

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My essay for  Blink, on their issue on Cell phones
Photography starts Now
  1. Cell phones have made Photography into what it always set out to be: a universal and democratic language. Everyone that has a mobile phone can participate in a conversation with images, regardless of the verbal language that they speak. Photography works at its best when it can “capture” that which has no words. It is when Photography says what words cannot even begin to express that it becomes a different form of communication.
    This has implications that we cannot even know at this time. Imagine how this could change our idea of illiteracy, as people who are “not literate” could communicate with images! .Imagine if we could we one day have a Hamlyn dictionary of images? A language where the words are images.In this sense, one could say Photography starts Now
  2. So, while Photography becomes a people’s movement , a public act and the language most people will speak, what then will a professional photographer be? But, of course, as with writing, not everyone who writes is a writer. I think Photography will become the raw material, and the ‘photographer’ will make new forms from this ‘clay’.
  3. What makes the difference with mobile phone photography is that people photograph with different intentions: people are not necessarily looking for ‘good ‘ photographs but for what is most important to them. So the range of what is considered ‘Photo Worthy’ gets expanded and, through this, new forms will emerge. This is exactly what Photography forms that push the limits of the medium.
  4. I still work mainly with Film. I like how it slows me down, how considered each frame is. But, I use my mobile phone for instagram and WhatsApp. I particularly enjoy WhatsApp as it has certainly replaced letter writing for me. When I think of someone, I send them an image that I hope also transmits how I am feeling at the time (something that conveys more than just where I am and what I am doing). This is just one of the ways that I think photographs will start replacing words in general communication.
  5. The whatsapp photo is like a postcard, but I also send very still videos so I can send sound as well as moving images, and sometimes only audio. So the cell phone gives me 3 different ways to communicate.
  6. This then leads me to the idea of the ‘moving still image.’ In the digital world, when the difference in still and movie is just a button, perhaps, the form of the future will be a still moving image, or a still image with sound. (All this is so easily done on the phone, think of when, as a mistake you think you have made a still image but have actually recorded a movie.) This in itself changes the idea of the Photographer . How then can a Photography school not teach film. It is in this very overlap, of still and movie  that the new definition of Photographer could emerge.
  1. What we do miss in this world flooded with images, is editors. Whether that can happen as an app or still requires a person still remains to be seen, but someone has to make sense of all the billions of images that we throw out each day. Still, I will say I am surprised we do not have an App that can work as an editor. Perhaps this is something photographers will have to learn to do for themselves. How to make a poem out of their collection of ‘words’.
  2. Here is my photo tutorial for  mobile phones. I call it, LBC.
  • LIGHT- watch the light falling on that which you are drawn to photograph. Move yourself around the  ‘subject’ to see if you might get better light. Moving not just left to right but up and down as well. Almost a dance around the ‘object’.
  • BACKGROUND- then look at what is in the background, does it enhance your image or take away. Again move around to see if you can find the most appropriate backdrop, the least distracting. Same dance as for the light.
  • CORNERS- then look to the edges of the frame and see what is in the corners. Do you want it, does it  add something, can you move in or away to make the edges more defined? Personally, I think the image is about what is left out of the frame.
  • Breathe- Just take a breath or two before making the image. And take just one ‘shot’. Or to slow down even more, use a tripod! Slow down. Thats it. LBC.
  1. But this is just making photographs, this does not make you the Author of the work. That ‘something else’, that indefinable quality, that which makes the image linger and give it resonance, is very hard to articulate. It comes, perhaps, from a honing of intuition. Which, in turn, comes from all the experience you bring, whether its the experience you gather through literature, through travel, through cinema, or just through living life. In that technology cannot help, and in that there are no short cuts.
Photography starts now