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Me and my DSLR – A not-so-secret love affair

Somewhere in the ’90s:
I have begun working as a journalist at a magazine. I know by now that my calling is not business studies, & my degree which I got with honours will hardly ever be utilized. I am drawn towards not just writing, but all forms of art and literature, and what interests me most is a fusion of these. I love coordinating photo shoots. I know I have a good eye for detail. I don’t just marvel at the model and her oomph, but more so at the locations where the shoots are taking place. I love best the shoots at Hindu Gymkhana and Chowkandi tombs. I pore over the films with an eye glass. Computers are still too young, too experimental. We send the x-ray like films of the magazine pages to the press after assembling them painstakingly for hours.

I meet a photographer, and she is brilliant. We embark on a series of pictorial features in which I am writing the script for her wondrous clicks….my favourite of these is a feature I title “Hands that weave dreams”……we are in kaarkhanas of men who work on hand-embroidered wedding dresses…..she clicks at their hands, at their faces, at their half-burnt stubs of cigarettes, at their needles and threads, at their laugh-lines and their brow-frowns…..I love her art. “I have to learn this”, I say to myself.

Somewhere in the 2000s:
Married. I have a daughter. I am on a hiatus from journalism for God alone Knows what reason. Complacency I suspect. I am not so happy inside. I miss writing. I have a computer now but do nothing much with it except emailing. I have a mediocre camera. I still get spellbound by good photographs. My clouded passion for photography goes into clicking my daughter endlessly, but photo rolls are not so cheap and just have 38 exposures to 1. I ignore the desire and go back to cooking aloo gosht and replenishing groceries and joining a “Committee” of ladies and making dresses that have gravitated towards embellishments like “laces” for some reason……my original style of pure cottons, plain solid colours and kolhapuri chappals is diminishing. I still read.

A few years later:
The computer has made a huge entry in my life. And writing has made a re-entry. I am so much happier. But it’s taking me time to get back into the flow. I hate some of my initial write-ups. It takes me too much time to write even a small piece and I am relying too much on the thesaurus. I am reconnecting with journalism friends and luckily have a readership soon again. Its tedious to get back into the flow, but I feel alive. Photography is slowly creeping back into my life….I have an insignificant camera, but its a digital, so I am allowed countless mistakes, unlike life. But my photography doesn’t have any zing to it. In spare time, I am online seeing photography of others and loving the good work, and my new aim in life is to get a camera that makes a certain “click” sound, and is huge, and manual, and looks all professional. I know it will be expensive. I have no clue what I will do with it. I don’t know the word DSLR as yet.

December 2009:
I announce to my family that I need no other gift for 3 years. All I want is for them to save up and buy me “one of those cool cameras”. I get a promise in return. Writing has gained momentum. Life is more than aloo gosht. I am happy.

February 2011:
I am in Tharparkar with an NGO on a work-related trip. Tharparkar has mesmerized me. I can’t stop clicking with my tiny phone camera. I feel handicapped. My colleague, a professional photographer, clicks non-stop. We talk about photography and cameras and human expressions and what it means to be able to photograph.  He guides me about lenses and kinds of cameras and that magic word – DSLR. I have an awe-struck teenager’s expression when he fits a HUGE lens over his camera. I want to capture the colours of the peacocks and the Thari women’s colourful dresses and the desert sunsets and the camels. On return, I publish my tiny camera’s pix alongwith my feature for women’s day. The pictures get encouraging feedback. I know I can do this.
Round about the same time, I meet an intriguing woman from Russia, one of the best photographers I have witnessed. We become friends. Her work is a bit off-centre, at times dark, but has a profound effect on me. Her pictures of Benaras in India leave me more in love with this art.

May 2011:
I have to travel to Ethiopia in early June. I get my long-awaited gift. I am speechless and thankful. I cannot believe once I have it in my hands. It is a beauty. I touch it in disbelief. I play with it. I trace each part of it with my fingers to get familiar with it. I carry it around in the house to get used to the weight of it in my hands. I take pictures of inanimate objects constantly……my jar of chillies, my window, my door knob. DSLR – those words are sweet! I know I will enjoy Ethiopia much more now.

July 2011:
Ethiopia was much more enjoyable thanks to my camera. But I know that I am not doing justice to this camera’s capabilities. I am mostly on auto. My indoor pictures are still awful. I know nothing except that I want to learn this, but don’t know how. I am checking out the internet for photography courses. They are not fitting into my schedule. They are either too basic or too advanced.
A friend has returned from a vacation in Europe. He puts up his pictures on Flickr. They are splendid! I enjoy his take on lights and shadows and human faces and window sills and doors and hands and feet. We talk about his work. I learn a lot. I still don’t know how to put this knowledge into action.

December 2011:
I have just returned from a trip of sunny, splendid Senegal. I have tried and captured Africa’s glory with my lens. I know I am getting better, but still not good enough. I want to support my write-ups with good photos and want to capture the wrinkles on my mother’s face with enough aesthetic beauty that satisfies me. I am still not there.
Another friend has the same camera as me. And his work keeps getting better. He tells me about his investment in a new camera, a new lens, his equipment, and keeps repeating one mantra to me: “Get to know your machine”.
I want to learn more from him. We meet up for coffee. The coffee house is a mad house, with people talking non-stop on tables too close for comfort. We yell across the table to hear each other. He has his laptop and a whole backpack full of stuff that helps his pictures get so magical. I get a full one hour plus class on a lot of details about my camera…..I never knew all this about it. The guru is telling me to remember 4 basic things: Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance and ISO. His eyes are glinting with excitement as he tries to teach someone who has just discovered that she knows nothing much about this stuff. He gives me an assignment to practice all this and show him my work in a months time. The coffee is cold. We gulp it down. I am excited.
I am home. I am telling my family about what all I learnt today.
My new year resolution has a new flavour this year.

About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, Communications practitioner, teacher, media trainer | Literature | Gender Parity | Peace | Islam | Very Desi | Chaai, not coffee.

9 responses »

  1. Very nice article, Farah. With photography, every single click that you make, adds to your knowledge and your learning experiences, perhaps just like life. The way you have described your movement forward, I can comfortably assure you that with the 3 "P"s… Passion, Patience, and Perseverance, all three of which you clearly seem to possess, you would soon be creating compositions which would appear significantly different, better as well as several levels above, and in some cases, a sharp contrast to the snapshots you may have been taking this long.Just one more thing to share… make an effort… to not "Take" a photograph, but to "Make" a Composition. The rest would automatically fall in place.Best of luck for the year and years ahead.Warm regards to Moazzam and family.Omer Sidat

  2. "so I am allowed countless mistakes, unlike life".. its brilliantly told.. i can understand the passion towards self discovery, quite a journey FarahNAz! 🙂

  3. Lovely article Farah. Your photographs are indeed very good. In fact why not post them on your blog?

  4. @Touba Naeem: Toubee that's my favourite line in the whole blog 🙂 Thanks@ Shai: Working on making a new blog soon dearie. Thanks 🙂

  5. Muhummed Arsalan Riyaz

    Lovely write Farah.

  6. I like you Journal and your travel to DSLR. Are you on Flickr. You should post your pictures there. Senegal provides such great pictures especially of their colourful wardrobes.

  7. Brilliant ! ( I just love how you put in your/ my favorite line )


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