The World BY a Photographer
(Living the life of a National Geographic Photographer)
The unhooked world of fantasies engraved in my dwarf sagacity is the present of The National Geographic Magazine to me. I’d been captivated by the world not of sameness but of wondrous curiosity that is unraveled by the magazine, since I started reading it. These 2 years, my curiosity for the unexplored enigmas, documented societies and species and landscapes threatened by our urge for homogenization, has grown every single day.
The magazine has given me something that a generation later may live only in these treasured pages. How do you walk away from that?
What propels me for reading is the spontaneous voyage which brings about another demeanour of The NG society is : The art of Photography and the venture of two souls on either side of the lens.
I am wholly masqueraded, by the innate abilities – a photographer can pursue.
The photographs and the underestimated art of writing is what alters my perception, transcends me to believe in the unseen places, hoping for the unexplored things and the courage to inherit the phenomenal.
Moreover , What transfixes me is ‘What the photographers share’: The hunger for the unknown , wanderlust, the courage to be ignorant, to reflect differentiated passions, and the wisdom to recognize the uncanny, as one says “A photograph is never taken- it is always given.”
Photographers use their cameras as tools of exploration, passports to inner sanctums, instruments for change. Their images are proof that photography matters- now more than ever.
The National Geographic Society was conceptualized for exploration, which could only be attained through colors on the gray pages of the magazine i.e. a visual orgy.
The explorers continue to use camera as a tool to narrate stories that can alter perceptions and, at their best, change lives.
By conserving a precious moment of the world and holding it in place for years- a great photograph can explode the totality of the world such that we never see it quite the same again, for “A truth is snare and we cannot have it, without being caught” says Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
Today photography has become a global cacophony of millions of freeze frames. Any day a photograph can be added to the unguarded world of emotions. The very best of their images remind us that a photograph has the power to do infinitely more than document. It can transport us to unseen worlds.
A National Geographic photographer is the personification of worldliness, the witness to all earthly beauty , the occupant of everybody’s dream job, their perception is everything to admire and nothing whatsoever to envy.
If what propels them is the ferocious determination to tell a story through transcendent images, what encumbers their quest is the daily litany of obstruction like excess baggage fees, inhospitable weather, not a warm welcome by some communities, broken bones or imprisonment. They find themselves serving as an unwelcomed ambassador in countries to the West. Or sitting in a tree for weeks, or eating bugs for dinner.
I might add that Einstein, who irreverently referred to a photographer as lichtaffen, meaning “monkeys drawn to light” did not live by 3 a.m wake up calls. Let’s not confuse nobility with glamour.
They spend their time toting around their lens, observing compatriots, their culture and diversity of a country or the region, and at last lifting the camera to the eye and seeing all of this from a different perspective and then treasuring, what we call a ‘memento’.
They have spent literally years immersed in the sequestered world of Sami reindeer herders, Japanese Geisha, the New Guinea birds of paradise, and several unexplored places and mysteries. The fruit of that commitment can be seen in their photographs .What’s not visible is their sense of responsibility toward those who dared to trust a stranger by opening doors to their quiet world. It needs the Beauty of mind to see the gorgeous life hidden beneath an unhooked world, to experience the beauty of the Harp seals swimming in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is also to see the frailty of their habitat, to witness the calamity of war in the gold mining region of the Democratic republic of the Congo is also to envision a glimmer of hope.
Of course, every professional photographer hopes for The Epic Shot, the once-in-a-lifetime collision of opportunity and skill .
The most iconic photograph ever to grace these pages is not of anyone or anything historic. Rather, it’s of Sharbat Gula, an Afghan girl of 12 when photographer Steve McCurry encountered her at a refugee camp in Pakistan. The Afghan girl’s stare drilled into our collective subconscious and stopped a heedless Western world dead in its tracks. Here was the snare of truth.
In a world seemingly benumbed by a daily avalanche of images, could those eyes still cut through the clutter and tell us something urgent about ourselves and about the imperiled beauty of the world we inhabit? I think the question answers itself.
Photography is the art of observation, it has a little to do with the things we see and it has everything to do with the way we see them.
This magazine has taken me into the universe of tyrannical reality by the black letters on white canvas, to the places I can only dream and into the minds of the harboured communities, to the historical legacies and at its best- Shaped my soul.