January 20, 2010

On Photographs, Photographers and Photography.

On Photographs, Photographers and Photography.

“Since meeting her, my own thinking about poetry has changed. Her photographs -how can I put it? – strip poetry bare. I mean, here we are, choosing our words, braiding strands to cut a figure. But with her photos it’s immediate, the embodiment. Out of thin air, out of light, in the gap between movements, she grabs things just like that. She gives physical presence to the depths of the human psyche. Do you know what I mean?”

– Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Some of you might have noticed the recent addition of the Photographers & Photography section in the column on the right. Why photography? Because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

A photographer. A person who takes photographs using a camera. A species of artists.

I have, in recent years, the opportunity to be acquainted with several photographers and be drawn into the sublime art. I have been photographed in a studio with my family upon graduation, been a subject of an indoor photoshoot (thanks, HZ!!), travelled Europe with a photographer, tagged along to the cemetery with two photographers on their personal project (of course, slowing them down and asking them tons of questions), and composed music for a series of photographs.

Before this, I always thought that photographers had it easy. Press the shutter a couple of times and get paid big bucks for it. Now I know otherwise. They, like all other struggling artists, also suffer for the sake of their art. They walk long distances, carrying their (extremely heavy!!) equipment of lenses, camera(s) and a tripod, in search of the place and the frame for that photograph. They wait minutes, no, hours under the scorching sun for the correct lighting conditions. They brave storms and rain to get beautiful photographs.

And then they press the shutter.

All that walking, waiting, for that one second. To capture that elusive one moment in time. The frame, the gap in between movements, that presence. Kind of like us musicians. All those years of practicing for that one moment on stage or in the audition room. If you play a wrong note, you’re done for. If you miss the moment, it’s gone.

Somehow photographers always manage to bring out the interesting from the mundane. Its like a certain skill they possess, to see and capture everyday objects from a different angle, making it look totally different. Transformed.

However, as much as I am interested in photography, I don’t think I would ever get my own SLR or learn the tricks of the trade. At least not when I’m surrounded by so many of them. I’ll stick to my trusty digital camera and take photographs my way. Getting myself into photography is just opening a can of worms. Writer Murakami tells it as it is:

“Youwereplayingguitar,” said the Sheep Man with interest. “Welikemusictoo. Can’tplayaninstrumentthough.”

“Neither can I. Haven’t played in close to ten years.”


I didn’t want to dampen the Sheep Man’s spirits, so I played through the melody of Airmail Special, tacked on one chorus and an ad lib, then lost count of the bars and threw in the towel.

“You’regood,” said the Sheep Man in all seriousness.

“If you’re good. But if you want to get good, you have to train your ears. And when you’ve trained your ears, you get depressed at your own playing.”

-Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

I should just stick to playing my music. Perhaps a bit of composition for photographs as well. That way I can dabble in the art without getting my hands too dirty (;

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