Sometime back I was discussing with a group about spirituality. The discussions went towards how things around us have developed, how people strive to find inner peace and how spirituality is slowly and slowly getting away from the general public, all of whom are involved in a rat-race trying to prove themselves, keep up with the joneses and accumulate all kind of materialistic possessions.
What about photography? Something that starts with more materialistic possessions! Top of the line cameras that people in general stretch their budgets to buy, ultrasharp lenses and camera accessories that can do everything (apart from making coffee). Can photography be a way to spirituality?
Seeing the wonders around us
Photography enables me to see the wonders all around us. The wonderful sunsets, the flowers, animals and birds, the waves that touch the shore and keep running away, the sweet gurgle of a mountain stream, the deep blue sky and the clouds floating around ! Even when I photographed my last star-trails, I was out in the open, under the star filled sky. When the camera rests on the tripod and the the long exposure captures the night sky, it’s natural for the mind to wander off. Admiration of sky happens on its own. Admiring all these wonders around us makes us aware of how we are a part of a whole wide living world around us and the universe beyond. Yes, walking around with my camera, makes me see things and realize the grandeur of the things that have been created around us. Photography gives a fresh way of seeing and helps realize the finesse in everything … from tiniest of insects to the grandeur of the high mountains.
An element of Meditation
Even while composing photographs around an element of interest, what is it that attracts to that main point? This is what I question many a times in an effort to understand the scene in front of me (Story in a Photograph). There are times when it is just the plain aura of the element that attracts attention. When we observe such points of interest with whole attention, there comes a moment when nothing else comes to our minds. This is similar to what sages teach about meditation.
I am not here to convince anyone about the presence of a supernatural force or God. However let me tell you how photography developed this faith in me. Gazing into the far sky, I realized, how vast the universe is. Endless! Scientists have convinced me and many others about the Big-bang theory or proven the existence of Higgs Boson particle. Now that may explain the way universe formed. If the universe and the matter was created from what scientists can prove, where did the space come from into which the universe got created? This is the negative space in our knowledge and this is where the faith comes in. Photographs look wonderful with this negative space and this tends to give a completeness to the composition (Negative Space). Similarly I know that the negative space in our understanding of the world is where the faith steps in and will always remain there.
Incidents that rebuild the faith
On a more simple note, there are things that I notice when I capture photographs. These small things make me realize the existence of a guiding force and therefore strengthens my faith. Sometime back I photographed a small caterpillar (Caterpillar takes a stroll). A life in itself! It moved from one leave to another and then balanced itself out on a moss-stake. A wonder!
Sometimes I see extreme poverty and harshness of life. Sometimes to such an extent that my faith shakes but then maybe there is some bigger reason to it all which I fail to see. I photograph such emotions and feel sad. What rebuilds my faith is when I talk to some of them. Even in their harsh conditions, they have faith. So, why can’t I who can afford to indulge in photography have the same faith?
With every person I photograph, every portrait I visualize, I come close to knowing the person. Many of them have stories that tell about what their life has been like. There are ups and downs but more importantly, a lot of them incidents that strengthen my faith. If you are into street or portrait photography, do try to interact with your subjects and be ready to be surprised.
(A sage I met on a photography trip – Trip to Jageshwar Temples. Apart from being my photography subject, he also told me a few things about his life which impressed me. He had found his path to spirituality.)
Indian philosophy and Photography
I know that a large number of my readers are not from India. I am including a small insight into how nature is embodied in the spirituality in India. Rishis (saints) advocated contact with nature as one of the main ingredients for a blissful life. The sun, the stars, cosmos as a whole has a major role to play in Indian culture. They are revered as creations of God and prayers as offered to them considering them His incarnations itself. Being a photographer brings one close to these. Even being near to trees is said to be good for our souls, since trees are providers to us in various ways. Going for a photo-walk in a forest is again a way of receiving (blessings, good health, peace) from these trees.
Photography – my way to spirituality
Photography is not a religion. Not even close to it. It does however bring the photographer close to spirituality. I indulge in photography because of my love for it but in the process, I have realized, I am becoming spiritual. Is it the effect of the hills that I am close to or is it the goodness of the villagers I interact with? Whatever it is, photography also has a role to play. Camera is now my sacred teacher too.
(Wild grass – Would I have noticed the grass had I been without my camera? Photography helps me see things differently.)