I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the all the research that I have just finished for Part Two as well as reflect on the areas of development that I have set for myself. I think the single most important factor for me on this journey has been researching and learning about various photographers and their work; it is a tremendous learning, something that I haven’t really done before in such great detail. The process has been absolutely wonderful to say the least, irrespective of whether I personally related to somebody’s work or not, the take-aways have been been invaluable from every one of these master photographers. Each one of them has shown me something new and from each one of them I have taken away a new learning. What I enjoy most out of researching is that you get to learn about so many great ideas and then become well informed about making the right choices for your own work.
Besides the photographers that I have researched, there are so many other sources of learning as well. The BBC series – ‘The Genius of Photography’ has been a great source of supplement learning, although I have only seen four out of the six-part series so far. I am currently researching Jim Richardson, photo-journalist for National Geographic, for his tips on soft focus photography that I am considering for Assignment Two. Susan Bright’s session was again extremely invaluable for her insights into selection, editing and exhibiting your work. Her thoughts on collaboration were well appreciated. Also, her understanding of simple writing that everyone can understand was such a a valid point.
I looked at the Ravens series by Masahisa Fukase, a Japanese photographer, as suggested by my mentor, Andrea Norrington. He was obsessed with taking pictures of his wives, and he became so depressed when his second wife Yoko left him, perhaps owing to the fixation that he had with shooting her continuously with his camera. The guardian called him the man who photographed nothing but his wife. When she left him he fell into extreme depression and started to photograph ravens and the result was a Photobook ‘The solitude of Ravens’, published in 1986, referred to as the best photobook in the last 25 years. Its a stark book that reflects Fukase’s melancholic nature and has grainy monochrome images of ravens as symbols of his grief. Much before I knew or researched this artist, I have been photographing crows, who are one of the most intelligent birds. His work reminded me of my ravens, whom I feed every day and I was quite pleased that there is an entire book dedicated to them. Crows are just banished by everyone and I just love them. If I am late in feeding them, I hear reminders immediately.
I have just finished the book Towards a Philosophy of Photography by Vilem Flusser. It was an interesting read especially knowing that it was the inspiration behind EYV. Another great book I read and looked at was ‘Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds by Tim Laman And Edwin Scholes. It is such a fantastic book on some incredible and unbelievable looking birds, their mating rituals and their plumages, found only in the rainforests of New Guinea. The extraordinary measures that they had to undertake to photograph and film these birds, took 58 field visits spread over a period of eight years. I am currently pursuing an Ornithology course with Cornell University as well this is the kind of projects that I eventually would love to do. I am currently reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography.
Talking about developing projects further, for the decade that I have been shooting wildlife, mainly focusing on big cats, I have photographed over 500 species of birds in India, Africa and Sri Lanka, without even knowing or really being interested in them so much. They just happened while looking out for the big cats or waiting for them to wake up from their slumber. It’s only in the past year that I have started to classify and organise them and discovered that without even being actually interested in them I had over 500 species already. During the lockdown and the forced containment inside the house, led me to photograph birds from my house. That project which led to my Assignment One, is an ongoing project still and my species count around the house itself has gone up to 45 plus. Now that they have become an important part of my life I actually focus on birds, their behaviour, their interactions, its like a whole new world opening and I plan to grow that count and learning, consciously.
One thing that was well learnt from all the photographers, and I have always practised it, is knowing your subject well. I think during all this my greatest learning has been about bird behaviour which I have never focused on while in the jungle due to the pressure of finding a big cat, but now am finding it absolutely wonderful to learn about their behaviour everyday. I strongly feel that this period has turned out to be more constructive for me in more ways than one. I was advised to look at Chris Gommersall’s bird photography; we have some amazing bird photographers in India, who’s work I follow too.
Being an educator myself, I have utilised this lockdown time to give talks on awareness, respecting our wild and how to become better citizens, with schools and universities across India, including holding an expert online session on wildlife photography with Nikon India official on their Instagram channel. In the same way, I am attending quite a few talks with other experts in the field, whether related or not, I think its an excellent source of motivation and new learnings. My mentor had suggested that I look at the conversations that Magnum is hosting regularly of their photographers picked at random called ‘Quarantine Conservations’. Its enlightening to know how they are dealing with this period of house arrest and how this time can be utilised in different ways. I am finding these quite useful as not only are these a great source of learning and inspiration but it also makes the photographers more human and more approachable when you get an insight into their way of working, their style and their decisions. There are many such conversations on their website and are quite fun and resourceful to watch. The links are in the bibliography below.
My tutor also suggested that I continue my research style and developing on it and I am doing so and I have included books, films, online videos and interviews now to my research sources. I am also developing the projects further and not leaving them at the completion of an assignment. Another source of great learning has been looking at other students blogs and I always go through various blogs while researching – it gives me an idea of the varied ways an exercise, a project or an assignment can be approached and helps me broaden my horizon greatly. I am also regularly looking at articles from National Geographic, British Journal of Photography, Lens Culture regularly – I even shared some of them on my blog. These are great resources as they showcase whats happening around the world in terms of photography as well as excellent resources from photographers across the world for creative at home ways of photographing.
I was asked to look at Anna Fox’s work for the upcoming assignment and I am also following her on instagram along with ‘Beyond the Negative’ on Instagram, showcasing photographers pushing the boundaries of the artform. I am also following Anna’s mentor Karen Knorr on Instagram, and I think its giving me a fresh perspective and my daily dose of inspiration looking at how they are dealing with showcasing their art from the limitations of their homes. Like David Alan Harvey says during his conversation with Martin Parr, “We will all learn something new about ourselves during this period.” And as Martin Parr likes to put it out there instead of over-thinking about a project!
Well, this post has turned out to be much longer than I had planned so I will stop here. My entire research for Part Two can be found here. To wrap it up, I want to say that the learnings from all the photographers and other resources has been absolutely invaluable and now I am ready to interpret these ideas with an open mind and to the best of my abilities.