With Coronavirus reaching pandemic status, I'm coming back around to a New Year's resolution of not focusing on people in my photography.
I've literally photographed thousands and thousands of people over the last few years, in Mumbai alone. A majority of these people no one will ever see as they've missed the final cuts and wound up unedited in unnamed folders with dates for titles, or they were genocided from my archives to save hard disk space. What I want to say is that I've photographed plenty of people, resulting in thousands of images, a vast majority of which will never been seen by the public.
The process for such work is time-consuming and requires a great passion and tolerance for people. It requires empathy, patience, time management, and anger management too. It requires the photographer to see the world in a slightly skewed way, from an artistic perspective, rather from a realistic one, in my case. Those who've shot a lot of street photography over time might understand this. On the flip side of the coin, it's what I do and what I love doing.
By the end of 2019 I had reached a point of burn-out photographing people, in a sense. I had written about it in "Why I'm Weaning Myself Off People In 2020". In mid-March 2020, I'm still feeling it. But what have I done since January? Photograph people. I did a photoshoot not two days ago! And you know what? After going through those photos and many of those I've shot so far in the new year, I remain uninspired. The output feels like I've accomplished nothing, as far as personal work goes.
I can contrast this feeling of utmost creative stagnation with the compliments I've been receiving on recent images from this year. This may "do it" for some photographers. But I don't seek validation nor compliments. I'm a photographic thrill-seeker. I do it for myself. The physicality of photographing is a habit-forming monster. Creating art from the ordinary has always been part of my drive too. None of this has changed for me. So what's my deal?
I'll transition now over to the latest news of the Coronavirus here in India, which hasn't been hit hard by the virus yet but that is likely to change. Paranoia and precautions are in effect. Malls and other large venues are shutting. People are buying out food stocks. People are wearing masks. People are beginning to avoid other people. Where does my environmental portraiture fit into all of this? The short answer is, it doesn't fit at all. Maybe I can look at this little break from people photography as the one positive gift I could ever hope to receive from a major pandemic. No more people in my frame. But am I capable of refraining from people? At least until the Coronavirus blows through and leaves? Remains to be seen.
My new plan is this, which will make my wife understandably happy. I'm staying away from the crowds I normally don't shun. I'm going to keep my distance from people for the next couple months or until the virus runs its course. I'm going to look for other subjects, whether they be abstract, of things, or a combination of both. Maybe I'll take up creative selfie-taking out on the streets. I don't even have to have a focus. I'm just going to photograph stuff.
The only option that's off the table is shelving my camera.