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volume 19
april 2016

On taking photographs

 





  Op-ed
by Hans Durrer
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I've never really understood why some photographers are seen as stars. I mean, even drones can take fabulous photos. And, there's the Hubble Space Telescope that has been sending back gorgeous pictures from the cosmos. So why does it take a photographer...?

And, needless to say, the more pictures you take the better your chances are that some good ones will result from your endeavours. Moreover, I've over time come to realise that photography is not so much about the result but about experiencing life as it unfolds. To me, that is.

Recently, during a month-long stay in the Brazilian town of Santa Cruz do Sul, I regularly passed through the same side street where I felt irresistibly drawn to the colourful boundary fence of a geriatric clinic. Years ago, I had passed many times through this street yet I had no recollection of these colours that now seemed to hold me in their grip. Maybe they were new and hadn't been there before? Or had I simply overlooked them?

  I wanted pictures of these colours and so I decided to take my camera along. My walks through town did change for now I had a focus. And, it now mattered what time of the day I passed by the clinic for the morning light allowed other pictures than the midday sun. We all know this, of course, yet what I had not anticipated was the curiosity I felt each day: Would it be sunny or overcast? What colours and shapes would await me? Needless to say, the boundary fence colours did not change from one day to the next but the light that would fall on them was every time different, the mood I was in was never the same, and where I would point my camera to wasn't defined either.
Next I felt reminded of my time in Cardiff, Wales, where I got infected with the photography virus. Then, I was fascinated by photographs yet had no ambition to be a photographer myself. My interest was in reading pictures.
  This is what I wrote then: "Viewing photographs means that we are looking at the world through the eyes of the photographer. This does not, however, imply that we see the same world. It only means that we focus on what the photographer wanted us to look at. It is, however, in narrowing the scope that we broaden the horizon."
  A photograph is often referred to as a moment in time. In other words, it is an illusion — for time, another illusion, does not exist. Illusions, of course, are fine inventions to believe in for they help us navigate through this thing called life.
  Mostly, I go through life on autopilot, moments of awareness are extremely rare. For me, taking photographs means to focus and to slow down. By doing so I'm giving myself the chance to contemplate things as they are. And, to experience life as it is.
  "You are not supposed to do big things. Eating, taking a bath, swimming, walking, talking, listening, cooking your food, washing your clothes — de-automotize the process. Remember the word de-automatization; that is the whole secret of becoming aware", Osho wrote in The Book of Wisdom.
  De-automatization, this is precisely what taking photographs is doing to me.
   
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