Tag Archives: Photography

Perfect

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O my faith, my untamed knowledge, how shall I fly to your height and see with man’s larger self pencilled upon the sky? – Out of My Deeper Heart (Kahlil Gibran)

I remembered once, while peering into the viewfinder of my newly acquired camera some years ago, a seasoned photographer gently reminded me that “the difference between painting and photography is the canvas that you begin with. With painting, you start with a blank canvas and you gradually add in your subject. Whereas with photography, you begin with a full canvas, and it is the eye of the photographer which is required to skilfully edit out the subject that is not needed to make the picture meaningful and beautiful”

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

This was during one of those random phases in my mid-20s in which I wanted to try every aspect of art, like throwing pieces of bait into a lake and seeing which one gets hooked first. I was in Petaling Street, and it was a short walking photography course. It was also when I learned that critical difference between a beautiful painting and a beautiful photograph.

Like photography, our understanding is framed within our own experience, coloured by an understanding that is unique across individuals, and almost always never the same between two people. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, the way we view the world is edited. Certain subject are given extra focus, while the rest, and sometimes equally as important subjects are given less emphasis, blurred into the background. We truly see what we really only want to see.

Yet, I believe we stand to miss out on the beauty of life if all we do is to remain perpetually stuck in this ‘editing’ mode. If we are constantly busy removing subjects out of our frame because it is less then what we view as ideal. If we are always kept busy at focusing on one subject, and allowing light to expose the best feature of a single item amongst a sea of equally beautiful subjects. Part of what makes photography exciting I believe, is also the waiting. Time spent in a momentary stillness, watching and observing within the viewfinder until the ‘right’ subject walks in and captured at the perfect time. But what if there is no such thing as a right subject nor a perfect time? That every moment, every frame and every picture stands in its own right, perfect as it is. Because what may be beautiful for you, may be something that I may not be able to appreciate at all. Art is subjective, and elusive. And that is why it can be called beautiful even if it is the most random lashing of spilled paint on a blank canvas.

An artist (who paints!) once said on an interview “art is not meant to be understood, because by trying to understand you confine its meaning within your own experience, interpretations and biasses. Art is to be felt by the heart, and not to be interpreted by the mind”

And so it is, rather than spending so much time editing, creating and moving our life about towards that one perfect, ideal picture, perhaps it is better to go beyond and above this concept, “to fly to the height of your untamed knowledge” and feel the vastness and perfection of life from this perspective instead.

Perfect
You know this has to be
We always were so free

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“..and stand together, but not too close together, for the pillars of the temple stands apart”

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Yes, I am still very much alive despite the weeks of hiatus. In the 3 odd weeks that has passed, I had been taken away by the chaos that is life. I spent one weekend teaching yoga classes in a rented community hall just at the lobby of my apartment and saw the biggest turn out in my teaching career so far – 14 people in one session. That, to me was by far the most fun I had teaching yoga so far.

Another weekend was spent running around town, picking up my tailored sarees just in time for the wedding of two dear friends whom I hold close to my heart. It was my first Indian wedding, and possibly the first wedding that I had been genuinely excited to attend and be part of. I got to be part of the family and walk the bride down the ‘aisle’ at her temple wedding and watch the priest that married off her parents, did the same to her and the groom. Way earlier before the whole procession started, I got to shop for my first saree, and had it tailor made to fit. When I realised I had more than one occasion to attend, I made another. I love these two piece of clothing with such novelty, that if I could frame them and hang it for all to see, I would.

I sat in the car with Nan, the bride, minutes before she will walk out of the bridal car, into the temple and officially tie the knot in a Ceylonese tradition. And I can tell you, she is the most chilled-out, relaxed, unfazed and unperturbed bride I have ever seen. Not that I have seen many in my lifetime, but I think there are not many out there who will be able to sing along to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” out loud and still make jokes just before she goes down the aisle.

During their reception, one of her favourite aunt described her as “chillax”, a word that Nan had coined and now has become very much part of her vocabulary.

I got to put my Olympus micro lens to good use as well, and was extremely happy with the result I got. Putting humility aside for a little while, I think I did about as good as a job as their hired photographer 🙂 Nan thinks I should pursue this photography thing seriously, and Z told me “fuck consulting, just go take photographs and teach yoga”.

Earlier in the year, while the both of them were down in town to kick start the wedding planning they had asked if I would give a speech at their reception. To which of course I said, yes! Can I read out loud a poem too? That was in March. On December 1, and 14 days before the reception, I decided that it’s about time I sit down and write out what I plan to say and maybe work on memorizing it too. And memorized it I did, reading it over out loud while alone in my apartment, and over and over again while driving in the car. Practice, in this case, makes perfect sense indeed. After the 5 minute speech, I had random guests coming up to me telling me I did a great job with the speech (phew!) and I especially recalled an old man that I saw from the temple wedding who came up to me and said

“What a wonderful speech you gave tonight. I can tell you, I have been to many many weddings, and your speech takes the prize”

Wow. I have no doubt that he has been to many, many, many weddings before. From this experience I learned, writing a speech straight from the heart is always the best way to go about it because when you eventually say those things out loud, the emotions that go behind each word is effortless and genuine.

I took an excerpt from one of my favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran from a poem he wrote as part of his written work called The Prophet. I decided to do this without having to Google ‘wedding poems’ despite it being (as I had found out much later) a very popular poem to be read at weddings. This was the portion which I read out loud for the beautiful bride and groom –

“…let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you (…)

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”
-Kahlil Gibran On Marriage

 

How old is your soul?

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Children grow up believing in things that transcends the reality we live in. In Santa, fairies, unicorns, elves and angels. And even if the latter may raise debates (though I believe that angels really do exist) somewhere along those years, these beliefs somehow disappear. Perhaps from repeated disappointment, or maybe from the simple error of believing that other people knows best.

I think we are all equipped with our own intelligence, and it is sometimes the trust that we lack in ourselves which brings us to make choices that entails less risk but equally less than desirable outcomes.

Why do people stop believing in angels? or Santa Clause?

Or Love? or the possibility of being able to love and be loved in precisely the exact way they have always wanted?

Perhaps the safer route is indeed the smarter route. The path of least resistance that quiets the nasty uncertainties about the future, and our own capability to overcome these. Contrary to what many seem to say, it is not hard to let go of your desires, those desires that fuels you at the very thought of it (whether that be a passion, a dream job, an object of desire or even a person), it is in fact easier. Because the path to attaining those desires is often characterized with a boulder-sized of uncertainties and possibilities of disappointments making it far more easier to opt out, and adopt the status quo. It is that much easier to come up with a list of excuses of why it will not work than to truly confront your heart’s desires even if the effort required is equal both ways.

But then, where is the fun and adventure if we always opt for the safety of what we know? And how do we begin to even try to remain young at heart, if at every time the road ahead of us forks into two, we choose the less bumpy road without ever knowing that the end of which could be attaining something less than what we really deserve?

We’ve got a lot to learn, god knows we are worth it – Jason Mraz