Saturday, April 15, 2017

Is the Camera a Tool or a Barrier while Travelling?

I have loved my camera ever since I got one. A gift from my dad around 5 years back, it is a small Nikon digicam that I still carry and keep handy wherever I go. I have captured innumerable sunrises, sunsets and all those things in between that you may have kindly hearted on my social media - trees, birds, temples, deities, river, people, food, etc. It is my lucky charm you see, my camera, also a great friend, someone who has allowed me to just be (in spite of my many shortcomings, imperfections and flaws while handling it) and do what I have always done best - to stand and stare, observe and to appreciate the beauty that I see all around me. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to share the world in a way I have seen it.

But recently, during my yatras, I have often been hearing comments like this: Why take photographs when God has gifted you eyes? Capture the beauty that you see with your eyes and absorb it in your heart. The camera dissolves your experience. Leave it behind. Leave the photo-taking behind if you really truly want to see the world around you and connect with it more intimately and intensely.

I confess, I mostly agree.


Which leaves me wondering with the question:

Is the Camera Really a Tool or a Barrier while Travelling?


Sunset in Dwarka
To click, or not to click -
that is the question!

When I am busy taking photographs, say of a spectacular sunset, a part of me, a part of my being, a part of my energy shifts from living the moment in its entirety to holding onto something that I know is fast fleeting by, somehow eager to pocket that fleeting moment in a way I think would be best, most glorious and long lasting.

The real beauty of a moment truly lived lies in feeling the intensity of the moment, with all sincerity, with all the attention, with all our energy and being open to all that is alive, present, free and blooming in front of us. The greatest and only gift we need give to any moment in time to make it striking is our own Presence, the fullness of it because that’s when we have an experience. A real, authentic experience that is unique to call our own. That experience that no one else can replicate simply because it is mixed with colors of our own being… that being which is exclusive and inimitable in the galaxies of time and space.

It is not the camera then that I believe but this attitude, this nonstop chattering in our mind, which says - I am going there with my camera; I want to capture this, I want to bring that back – which is the real barrier.

And therein lies the handicap, the real barrier that is asking to be crossed.


Boatman during Rameshwaram Boat Ride
My Self(less)ie!

This leads me to a whole new perspective to the debate and one which resonates with me (the reason why I have still not ditched my camera) - How if we were to carry the camera without the greed, the urge to capture or hunt but just to see, to simply see?

We always have a choice, remember. So what if I made a conscious choice of slowing down a little and cutting down on the 'Click, Save, Repeat' habit? What if I let the moments free - to simply be - to open themselves up as they please rather than me running behind them? Would that make any difference?

The answer to all these questions has been a big resounding yes! I have been consciously cutting down on my picture taking in the last few trips. Acting in this manner, I have realised there is more spontaneity in the whole scene so that now it becomes less of capturing and more of creating ... like a prayer, a meditation... more of seeing rather than seeking, more of flowing rather than holding and that is the golden space where magic happens.


Feel the freedom to see the magic
Let that what you love... free
And then, see the magic!

So when I captured the boatman staring out into the Rameshwaram sea, or the boat standing peacefully in Pandharpur or the gorgeously nimble-footed pigeon pecking ever so lightly on my fingers – I framed them not only in the confines of my camera but also in the joys and silences that the experience of seeing and being touched by immaculate beauty outside brings in us, within.

This is not to chest-beat that I have perfected the art of conscious (or any other form of) photographing in any way, far from it actually. On the contrary, what I am trying to say is that I am making an effort to use my camera in a more mindful way since the last couple of months. By filtering those photographs through the editing lens of my feelings, thoughts and emotions, I am trying to take one step closer to what I call an intimate and satisfying form of creative Self expression.

I am beginning to use my camera less as a barrier and more as a significant tool in my yatras – keeping in mind that it's a brush using which I am painting a picture – my picture - a unique story. They say a picture speaks more than a thousand words, I would like to add that a picture silences more than a thousand voices clinging in my head.


Still landscape in Pandarpur
Looking at a still photograph simply is a unique experience - it holds the power to transform.

After all, there must be a reason why photographs are called still photographs, what do you think?

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Is the Camera a Tool or a Barrier while Travelling?

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On a side note... all these thoughts of slowing down and using the camera more mindfully has led me to this idea of ‘My Yatra Diary SoulSelfie series’ in an endeavour to continue using my camera in a more mindful and expressive way. I am looking forward to posting one photo each week in my diary from one of my yatras and a few words surrounding that picture – it could be a verse, a quote, a short poem or simply a few random thoughts – anything that helps me see and communicate to the picture and to that moment in the picture in a deeper, meaningful way.

Also, if you believe in the idea and would like to support the series further - I humbly invite you to be a part of the 'soulselfie' or 'soulie' series as well - please feel free to send in your creations to 22arti@gmail.com and I would love to host you in my little corner or come over and join me on Instagram using the hashtag #soulie. I am keen on exploring themes of spirituality, faith, prayer, hope and humanity – basically anything that touches you on a deeper, intimate level other than the material or tangible is welcome.




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30 comments:

  1. Indeed some very obvious questions in today's world where selfie is the buzzword. I am sure this series on soulie will give some time and images for introspection to the readers.

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    1. I sure hope it provides some reflective time to me on my yatras. Thanks much for your encouragement, Prasad.

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  2. Perfect analysis. In addition, the camera is a tool to share the beauty or the beast you have seen and the pleasure of sharing enhances the experience.

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    1. Oh yes, the pleasure of sharing!

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  3. A wonderful thought! Very often in the recent years, I have been thinking along the same lines when I see multitude of people having their phones/cameras and are more interested in taking pictures than enjoying. Also, I have observed that you take too many pictures and they vanish somewhere in the digital pile of photographs.

    So, these days I avoid taking Cameras. I use my Phone for taking Photographs if required and that too after I make sure I absorb the surroundings. I convert key photographs in Print for memories.

    All the best with your new effort of Soul Selfies.

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    1. Such a valid observation about the digital pile of pictures Karthick. Been there and done that - so I know! Trying to become more attentive myself with the camera in hand these days. Thanks for sharing your perspective, wishes and experience, I really like your idea of converting key photographs in print as memories. Priceless indeed!

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  4. This is one question or say complain I often receive from my friends that, why I don't enjoy the moment instead of capturing it. Well, sometimes I do feel that, I miss many things but at the end of the day the captured moment (and experience) is what I cherish the most. I guess, it's the perception that matters more than anything. And I admire your perspective always.

    Also, love the idea of starting a soulful picture series, Arti. I would love to contribute. Please share the details.

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    1. I completely agree with you Saumy when you say that the captured moment (and experience) is what I cherish the most. If we carry the camera with our hearts and minds in the right place, the picture ceases to be just a picture but becomes a piece of art. It's more of an awareness that I am trying to imbibe in myself.

      About the idea, thanks so much for showing your interest, I really appreciate it! There are no hard and fast details, since even I don't know how this is going to pan out. But the whole idea is to put up one picture captured from my travels with a few free flowing words (of my choice) surrounding that picture / moment is what I am looking at. So if you would like to share anything on such lines, I would be happy to have you in!

      And thank you for your inspiring comment always; means a lot.

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  5. Arti, you must realize that your 'My Yatra Diary' blog is also appreciated by those who can not travel. Whether (i) to enjoy the view or (ii) to record, edit and then publish consumes lot of time, is big question. But if you do not record, edit and publish your views then almost all blog readers will be deprived from excellent reportage. So I request you to keep doing as before. Camera is an asset not liability, please.

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    1. ... and that's what has kept me going all these years. Of course, I will continue to write about my yatras as I have always been as and when I can. Just trying to use my camera in a better way :) I hope it adds to the experience. It is a great privilege to share my travels with people like you who are here to appreciate it. Thank you for your kind and motivating words, appreciate them.

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  6. I cannot agree with you more,the intention of capturing the moment in the lens has taken away the pleasure of enjoying the place to a very large measure.I am also looking for a way out of this.

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    1. I hope you find your way soon, Ani. All the best!

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  7. nice read for sure. It took me sometime to realise that less is more.

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  8. Is the Camera a Tool or a Barrier while Travelling? with stupid antique laws at some places .. answer is yes and no 50/50.....but again you are never satisfied with how many clicks .. you feel you have clicked 100% and later on realized you have missed 100% :-) your writeup is excellent and very interesting, relevant and realistic :-)

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  9. Such a Powerful thought 💭 wherein I cannot answer this at all! when I saw your Digicam at the #BNLF event, I was sweetly surprised as I realised your Pics are Amazing bcoz of your Beautiful Perspective towards it and Camera is just a Mere object which helps you :) Will be looking forward for #soulfie series and Will share mine as well 😊

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  10. Nice Article I think Camera is very power tool

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  11. Could not agree more as a perfect balance between capturing the moment and living it is always the greatest challenge,Arti!

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  12. Well this is not just a post for thought but images for thought. I seriously dont get the selfie fever that has been going around but somewhere I do get the part where people generally want to share pictures to share the beauty or clicking selfie to share with their family. But unfortunately I have read about so many incidents where nature or history is now suffering because of the selfie fever that I really feel people need to think about why they click pictures first and then use a camera.

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  13. So true, Arti. Like you, I feel that a camera is important to see and also in a way to document some memories. But yes, there are those who are permanently fixated on capturing, on composing, on clicking and then you wonder what you are doing with them? They don't need you or other companions. They are not even enjoying their travel, so caught up they are in 'capturing'. Coming from a traveler like you, it is an even more pertinent post. Surely, less is more, Arti.

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  14. I've been feeling the same off late. I guess I am more occupied in capturing sometimes than in living in the moment. Life is all above enjoying that being perfect, something i have to seriously start following soon.

    This is exactly the same reason why I have cut down on the blogs I visit. I used to spend my weekends doing the same...not anymore. I enjoy what I do now.

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  15. Very well written. Sometimes it makes me think if I'm missing to live the moment when trying to capture the moment before it passes. Like a beautiful sunset for example when I'm more keen to get a good shot with my camera and I just keep looking at it through the lens rather that enjoying the actual beauty. But we also want to record the memories to cherish late and that is where we can't completely just ignore the tools.

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  16. I do believe in living in the moment and experiencing what the place has to offer. I don't believe in capturing everything that you experience while travelling, but once you done taking in the feel of the place, taking a picture doesn't harm. Although I adore nature and travel photography, I terribly fail at it. I really enjoyed these photographs, you've got some skills, keep it up 👍

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  17. I am not a frequent traveler, though I want to travel a lot.I have seen most of the world through my travel-blogger friends. So thankful to their cameras. Camera is important tool. P

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  18. Very thought provoking question indeed. Surely, the world is going towards self obsession thru cameras but there are people who resisit that. Sometimes it's better to see with natural eyes than those artificial ones. I am sure the series 'soulie' will be a success. All the best.

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  19. You are right, Arti. Indeed, the camera keeps us preoccupied at times and we remain busy determining the right perspective for a picture and thus fail to absorb the beauty of a particular place to the fullest. The #soulie is a great initiative :-) All the best with the series :-) A picture can say a million words and there lies the undeniable attraction of clicking!

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  20. Its true that these days its all about capturing, so we see people clicking dozens of pictures at the restuarants, cafes, tourist attractions and where not? All these pictures end up on some social sharing sites like FB, Instagram and even whatsapp. The whole idea of people today is to share instantly...that they are having time of their life!
    I think the idea of capturing is to freeze them for memories. To revisit few years down the line....
    It's important to enjoy the moment so we do feel like revisiting at a later date! :)


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    https://capturesthrumylens.wordpress.com

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  21. Thought provoking article. Not just camera, we have become slaves of social media. We want to share everything that we do. That's the reason we want to take pictures of each and every moment. Sharing this post on Facebook.

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  22. Disconnect to Connect! Excess is not good --- be it anything.

    I follow the rule of enjoying the moment and capturing them in between. This balancing makes the camera a 'tool' for me not a barrier. A tool that helps me share and relive the moments.

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