MOVE OVER PHOTOGRAPHERS / THE MAYA FACTOR

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Angry Indian goddesses set

The real heroine of  Angry Indian goddeses is Maya , the 6 year old photographer with her iphone. Pan Nalin  points to the future of Photography in his film, a child can record the world as she witnesses it, and they can be THE photographs that make the story. She presents all the clues in the film.

And to Nargis, (who talks of a time when all women can tell their stories) I would say, when all women have their own mobile phones, they will all be telling their stories, as they see them! We are almost there as everyone with a mobile phone has access to the camera. Move over ‘photographers’. The women have their own stories to tell, as they see them.

This is what is the great thing about Nalin Pandyas ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES, the women tell their stories as they experience them. No ‘writer’ ‘reporter’ ‘journalist’ telling their version of it.

I realised the power of this kind of ‘telling’ with Myself Mona Ahmed, when Mona told her story as she wanted to, with lies and contradictions as ones memories often are, and the publisher, the great Walter Keller, left them intact, he ran them unedited. Mona explained her becoming a eunuch, her castration even, her loneliness, her losses, with her own words, her own humour, in the form of letters to Walter.  Mona,being Mona,even dicatated the size of the book “small enough to read on a plane or a train”. People still ask for that book, now almost 15 years later. The story lingers because its not my version of her life.

So where does that leave THE PHOTOGRAPHER ? what does it mean now to be a photographer, when even a 6 year old can take the images that make the story. Perhaps the best one can do is to facilitate people in the telling of their own stories, themselves. To be no more than a ‘midwife’ in their delivery, if that.

And as for the Maya Factor  I have in my own experience a Maya, a young 9 year old girl whose family I went to photograph, we spent hours and tried various situations as the light fell.Towards the end of the shoot and just a few tips later, she made the best portrait of her parents and their dog on her iphone. (In the exact same setting that I had prepared for my portrait with her in it.) Better than any image I made even in subsequent shoots. So what does that say about photography? more importantly what does it say to Photographers?

Wendy Ewald has spent a lifetime teaching children how to photograph their own lives, tshe started this in the early 90s, in a pre digital era. Empowering people to tell their own stories, in their own ways. Maybe she was pointing us to another role for photographers, maybe she was telling us something about storytelling. can we think of Photographers as facilitators? Photographers as archivists for Iphone parents? I am not sure what it means to call oneself a photographer in this time. Yes we work with photography as tool/as language , but in itself it is just not enough.In my not so humble opinion.

MOVE OVER PHOTOGRAPHERS / THE MAYA FACTOR

Photography for Writers

Why does a writer aspire to make a book of photographs like a traditional photographer did, like me for eg. Why does the writer look to the ‘approach’ to photography as a traditional photographer did, which more often than not often was  ‘project’ based, for a variety of reasons. Why not trust that Woolfian Writerly stream of consciousness, in both the writing and the editing. And just as in writing, the ‘work’ is made in the editing. Photography in itself is just not enough.

Why does the writer not find a form that uses his words and images, expanding both, rather than one illustrating the other. Now that everyone can make photographs, and do, we might want to stop looking for ‘forms’ within Photography. That would be limiting at a time when Photography is expanding by the day.

Also as we seem to return to becoming a more image based society, it might be to the writers advantage to see Photography as another tool to be considered.

I would say the same to Cinema and Still photography. After all its just another button on the camera. I am sure there are several forms waiting to be discovered in that switch of a button. I for one, am very drawn to the moving still image, but others with more knowledge of cinema will find other forms.

The ‘skill’ in photography is how you see, not what you see. Yes it takes years to build that voice but as a writer if you could bring your own perspective (as you do in your writing) to your photography…the images will sing. And then the long solitary time for editing.

Infact what we need in Photography are the great editors, we never had too many but both Robert Delpire and Walter Keller were among them. Today, if I had to suggest someone, I would say work with a film editor. But a literary editor with a refined visual sensibility could also work. As long as you get past the notion of established forms for Analogue Photography. As soon as you think of Photography as your language and not a borrowed one.

Photography is a tool , accessible to everyone. The Book, the exhibition, the projection were forms of traditional Photography. Now that Photography is just the raw material, we will have thousands of new forms emerging.

I am no writer, and no writer could come close to Sebald, but Austerlitz is my dream book. My favorite Photo book infact.

Photography for Writers