Photography is about WHY not HOW

Photography is not at all about the technique but about the reason. My friend Seshu had just published a blog post about how to make your photos sing. it is a good post but many photographers don’t even know how to make their photos talk.

A few days ago I went to the Delhi FCC for a farewell party and ran into Prashant Panjiar, a photographer whom I like and respect. Prashant had just completed a very interesting  multimedia presentation of his latest work on farmer’s suicide in Vidarbha and it reminded me of a somewhat similar story I had worked on in Punjab in 2006. It was a good time to catch up and discuss the changing realities of the photography industry and what makes a good photograph.

Photography is not about HOW you take your picture but about WHY you do that

We agreed that a good photo is not necessarily elaborate or difficult to make. It is in the simple moments that the beauty or power is found. It does not have to take a long time to produce if – and it is a big IF – you connect! If you have the sensitivity to feel the moment and to empathise. If you love your subject and if you have something to say about it. It is true for documentary photography but also for any other aspect of photography, be it portraiture, nature, food, fashion or weddings. You must have something to say. You must bring yourself into the picture or it will only be another picture out there and will never shine.

For his story on the farmers’ suicide Prashant had traveled for three days between villages looking for homes where a suicide case had just happened or for a family that had suffered. “We had a deadline and had to deliver the pictures fast” he said. “Sometimes you come to a place and you only have fifteen minutes to take a picture. You can’t wait for the good light or build trust as you must get to the next village before dark. This is where experience comes to play . . . I have been there before, I’ve seen this pain somewhere and can recognize it intuitively”.

Being a photographer is not about the camera or the technique, it is about what you have inside your mind. It is the sum of all your life experiences and your point of view. It is where you’ve been, how much you cried, how much you’ve loved and been loved, how much you have experienced pain and how much you care. Photography is not about the HOW but about the WHY. It is about the reason behind your images and not about the exposure or the focus.

Many photographers are more concerned with how to take pictures then with why they do it and what they want to say. A good picture is very simple to find but you must look for it inside first, and for this you need to experience life.