Why Photography?

I am sure you have noticed that suddenly the interest in photography among the 20-30 age group has become a trend rivaled only by that of cat memes. The top answer to this Quora question says it all:

http://www.quora.com/Indian-People/What-is-the-latest-fad-among-the-youth-of-India (If you don’t have a Quora account, please get one. You will thank yourself for doing so.) photographers

I bet there is at least one friend you know who has bought a shiny new DSLR and who shares his photography on Facebook, fielding for Likes and comments. Typically in an album named “Through my digital eye”, “Clickography”, “Experiments with my camera”, “My photography”, “Frozen Moments” or some variation of these. Unless the person has been toying with a camera for more than a few years, the subjects of the pictures will mostly be a nicely focused shot of a flower, a slightly blurred bird, a beautiful sunset, random people on street, food plates, froth designs on coffee and such others. There is a high chance that some filters will be applied in such a way that the effect itself becomes the subject while the main subject is almost filtered out!

This post is about such people who are just getting into photography and while it may seem like I am mocking them, that is not my intention. Simply because at one point or the other, I have myself done some of these things as I grappled with figuring out my specific interests in photography. Wondering what has caused this sudden explosion in the desire to be a photographer, I think the following might be some of the important reasons:

Affordability. This one seems like the most obvious. Prices of cameras have plummeted. Compared to what they were just a few years ago they are a lot more affordable now. But still, while a DSLR costs me about a third of my monthly salary in US, it would cost me the entire month’s salary in India. Each new lens only adds to the cost. So though it’s a contributing factor, I don’t think affordability is the main reason. If it was a key factor in picking up a hobby, we would see a lot more writers and painters than DSLR slinging photowalkers.

Learning curve. Photography is an art which is closest to science. The basis of science is logic and the basics of photography operating a camera are nothing but plain logic. All you have to tweak is three controls, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and balancing them works just like a simple math problem. It’s hardly surprising that so many engineers love to pick up photography as their hobby! Set good exposure settings, focus with a touch lighter than on a TV remote, zoom in or get as close as you can to create a nice blurred background and voila, you have a nice looking picture… ready to share! You can hardly get such a good result so easily in any other art form. The scores of free tutorials on the internet, for taking pictures as well as editing them, which can easily be emulated step by step make it even easier to move from a novice to an advanced amateur level.

Instant gratification. This might be one of the biggest reasons why photography seems to be attractive. If with such minimal effort you can get Likes and comments by the dozens and appear to be doing something constructive with your life outside of office hours, why not? Hooked on to this appreciation, soon the photographer starts shooting more, sharing even more, putting watermarks on photos, © symbols in captions and before you know it, they have a Facebook page, “TM Photography” like any true professional would have. Oh and don’t even get me started on the apparent cool factor in doing photography, the biggest victims of which are the Instagrammers.

Creativity. Peeling off all the layers, I think this might be the most important reason. While some tend to nurture it more than others, I believe all of us have innate creative urges which need to be fulfilled. By creativity I am simply referring to a longing for creating something. If that something is relatively easy to learn, makes you feel good about yourself, is appreciated by those around you, consumes less time and can be done in tandem with hectic day jobs, what can be better than that? Photography fits this bill as snugly as a glove.

So what should we make of this proliferation of cameras and these self touted photographers? To keep this post from getting longer than the queue for the next iPhone, I am planning to write a follow up post about that. If you have given any thought to this subject, I would love to hear your views. But before you voice your opinions, can you please Like the photo I just shared on Facebook?

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