Monday, January 07, 2013

Firing Squad

The easy availability of digital SLRs and affordability of large lenses has made everyone a photographer these days. But is that good? You be the judge. I am posting three photos below which were taken in and around Kolkata and posted on Facebook. As an amateur photographer myself, all I can say is that it makes me extremely uncomfortable to crowd around a non-celebrity person like this, especially during a religious ceremony or private moment. Click on the photos to view larger.

In Kolkata during Chhath Puja. I forgot who the photographer is.

At Bagh Bazar, Kolkata on Durga Puja Dashami day. Photographer: Lopamudra Bagh

A village child in Langolpota, near Kolkata. Photographer: Arpit Kr Saha

I could provide more examples, but I will stop at three. My friends in Kolkata tell me such scenes are common at every event these days. Also, half-naked poor village children are usually made to pose for hours, often made to run repeatedly in the sun or climb trees, so that every photographer in the group can get his or her best shot. A friend even heard a photographer telling someone who had come to place a wreath on a grave on All Souls' Day to weep more, since weeping would make the pictures better.

I wonder where this is headed. I don't want to judge, but it seems now everyone is doing what only a handful of photojournalists used to do earlier. As I said, I feel very awkward intruding into someone's personal space like that, and I could never support making some stranger (unless it's a paid model) pose for a "natural" photo. I feel waiting for the right moment and clicking the perfect shot without telling people to pose - that's what makes a great photograph. I am here to shoot life as it happens, not movie publicity stills.

What do you feel about the issue? Do you think I am just being cranky because I cannot be part of these festival shoots, or do you think things need to change?