am I a photographer?

[an article written several years ago from my old website]

Answers from different people to this question may be "yes", "maybe", or "no, I just dont have the talent for it".

Let us try to take a closer look at the question, by starting with the idea of Beauty, and considering the ability of other species to identify it.

True that flowers are pretty, and butterflies appreciate pretty flowers and are attracted by them. But it's the fact that the colorfulness of the flower indicates food that appeals to them. True Baya Weaver female birds may select the neatest, strongest nest, but accommodation and the ensuing breeding that are the main objectives.

True some birds have very attractive plumage. Chaitra, a naturalist, has the following to say about dimorphism.

Animals exhibit what is called Sexual dimorphism wherein sexes of the same species have some differrences  w.r.t colour, size etc. In birds, the males are brilliantly coloured during breeding season (exceptions are  polyandrous birds where females are brighter than males). In mammals, generally it's the bigger and stronger of the males which gains the females. In any case, the colours exhibited by birds or the strength and size (body, antlers etc) sported by the mammals are mainly related to sexual activity. Some birds like peacocks show off their colours by their nuptial dance. All these evince that animals do "appreciate" certain features like colors, strength, size and sure the appreciation has an underlying cause: sexual selection so as to pass on the best possible genes to the next generation.  – Chaitra

Hence if we consider the example of a peahen's appreciation of a peacock, my words concur with Chaitra's. In other words, a peahen would never for example care to appreciate a courtship dance of even the most magnificient flamingo, another beautiful and colorful bird. Among all the species in the world, it could only be a homo sapiens, neither directly concerned with the peacock nor the flamingo, yet has the capacity to appreciate both of them. [let us assume the case of a  vegetarian who dosent even want to collect the feathers.]

It would be quite surprising if even the most intelligent of apes or dolphins were to pause to appreciate something artistic like a very beautiful painting of a landscape. Not even Koko, the gorilla who was taught to speak to humans by means of sign language.

An apparent contradiction may be some dogs I've known. Dogs are very expressive, and make no secret of the fact that compared to the house, they love open spaces like parks or beaches. But my understanding was that more than an appreciation of beauty, it was because of other factors like the open space giving them a chance to stretch their cramped muscles, and the fresh air and different smells and sounds, and also their curiosity of the new surroundings.

Thus if we look at the entire animal kingdom, appreciation of beauty is mostly conditional, based on something that they can eat, live in, or have sex with.

We humans have the very unique capacity to admire something, to even fall in love with – something totally irrelevant to us! For example, consider the case of looking at a full moon in a clear night sky – in spite of the moon having no direct purpose – we can't eat the moon, live in it or do other things with it. (It might be used to divide our time into units of time depending on religions or beliefs, but of course that's something we don't do now – it was done a long time ago – and now we usually just use calendars!)

So its human nature for an individual to now and then pause in wonder, and in the stillness of the moment, be mesmerised by something appealing. Could be a cloud formation in the sky, or a painting, or an ordinary everyday table top object shimmering in a peculiar lighting or seen from an alternative perspective. Or the world seen through a soap bubble, or a forest covered mountain or some beautiful flowers, anything.

So in that instant, an individual captures the image in his mind's eye – with a silent "wow".

Then there's this electronic device with a rectangular slot in it that she introduces between himself and the object, so that the device sees the same thing as she, and then instructs it to remember it. So it's not really the device that sees, it's only a middleman who remembers. It's the individual who is really seeing.

Hence I conclude that one who can appreciate anything visual – which is anyone blessed with vision – is already a photographer; it's just that she may or may not be carrying around a device. Whether others share the same idea of beauty or not is secondary, the primary most important thing is whether the beholder sees the beauty.

This is the basic fundamental aspect – there are other tec
hnical aspects associated with giving the device more detailed instructions, which one can learn with time – and is a science and art by itself.

From this point of view, I feel children would make very good photographers – because they have this ability to be aware of, and appreciate what's around them a lot more. As we become adults, some of us may tend to forget it because it gets drowned amidst Everyday Important Things. Einstein (who has said that while describing the truth, leave elegance to the tailor) has put it rather bluntly:

"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed"

But while this ability can only get drowned, it can never disappear – and will always be there waiting to be rediscovered! And then the answer to the question might become more positive.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. ~Dorothea Lange [photoquotes]

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