Travel and photography have always been strange bedfellows in my head. I have been ambivalent what one is to do in the face of raw beauty. To gawk at it and let it occupy some place in the recesses of your mind. Or to photograph the hell out of it, every square inch of it. The less dramatic answer: you do both, what’s the problem here then?
When I observe my reaction on coming across something beautiful in the process of travel, I normally tend to pull out my mobile camera and start clicking away with more passion than my brethrens with the DSLR. At some point, I almost have to remind myself, to keep the darn thing in my pocket and just gawk, absent mindedly, mesmerized. I mean I want to see the place when I am there in person, not back home while browsing through the photographs I clicked.
But then there are so many tourists who will come to a spot or ‘point’ and go beserk with their cameras and don’t know when to stop. It would not be that big a problem in my head if it was solely not restricted to that. When I look at most of them, I get a feeling – and I could be wrong here – all some of them are hoping for is their next display picture for facebook, to show these particular people on their timeline what a swell time/life they are having.
This coming from a guy, who in the words of a friend: put up a photo diarrhea instead of a photo diary about his travel on facebook, may seem ironic. But like I mentioned above, I think at some point, I do realize that the camera has to go in. I do think of facebook and other sites when photos are being clicked. And honestly, I then try not to think of it that way. I remind myself that beyond the likes, shares and comments, these are memories in the long run (too many memories if you ask me). If it was just about taking photographs, well you could download a few from google.
The deal here is the moment you are out there. At some point you stand there (ok I am not pontificating about postures here, do what you want) and just feel the place. You try to find that unique relationship with the place that will stay with you. You observe the feelings the place evokes in you. This feeling that may come back to mind three weeks after the trip just between the time you have shut your eyes and before sleep finally overpowers. You can regurgitate it in your head and unknowingly doze off. Well if you’re lucky, dream about it.
During my trip to Chherapunji, we had visited a cave. It was so dark inside that we could not click photographs. Maybe it was the best thing. When we returned from the cave and discussed the experience, all three of us could feel the vibe of something ancient in there. Some ancestral shiver had run down our modern day spine, when we looked at a leaf fossil embedded in a rock. That uncaptured, unclicked moment will stay with me like so many others.
What I am trying to say, is that in the process of making memories, I hope we don’t end up trading them for raw experience, something that is the very nub of what travel should be about. Whenever I think about these things, it brings to mind one of my favourite scenes from movie The Namesake. Irfan Khan (Ashoke Ganguli) along with his son reach the far end of the beach and realize they forgot to get the camera along.
Ashoke Ganguli: The camera! It is in the car. All this and no picture, huh? We just have to remember it then. Huh? Will you remember this day, Gogol?
Gogol: How long do you I to remember it?
Ashoke Ganguli: [laughing] Ah, remember it always. Remember that you and I made the journey and went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.