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The “Painter”

Recently, I’ve been browsing through some of the pictures I’ve taken or have been taken that happen to end up on my computer for some reason. Few minutes later I was wondering – why DO we actually take photos? Who was the first person to do it, and what was his/her intention back then?

If we ask the common man down the street why he takes pictures, you could probably guess the answers that you will get – apart from the weird look you will get, since after all you ARE coming up to a stranger and asking such a random question, the usual responses will be “for remembrance”, or “it looks beautiful”, and of course, the ever growing in popularity response, “why not!”

I did a quick search on google on why people actually take pictures. Two main answers sprang up – “to document life”, and “art”. The first reason – to document life – is another way of saying that these pictures people take, someday in the future, they are going to look at them and think about the times they spent at this or that place, how it felt back then, basically as they say, “to capture the moment”, because sometimes a mental picture is not good enough!

The latter, i.e. taking pictures for art, well… this is very profound. The mere mention of that three-letter-word can make hairs stand on end. Art. What is art? For years I’ve been trying to understand the meaning of this word. In the context of photography, one would look at a picture of something, say, a setting sun at dusk, or the photo of an eagle soaring through the clouds, or a group of penguins walking together on ice; or it could be something not so “nature” – like a room full of boxes, or a carton of milk toppled with its contents spilled on a table; one could look at these and say, “Oh that’s beautiful!” Well the saying goes, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”, and people have said many times that art (and in essence, beauty) is subjective.  Superficially, one would believe such a statement, but as the years go by, I’ve been inclined to believe that art (and therefore beauty) is not as subjective as many people may think it is. One thing that influenced such a thought is the art of cooking. Yes, as some of you may already know, I enjoy cooking, although limited by time, I like to spend as much time trying to whip up something as I do enjoying the taste of culinary delights prepared by others. Ok, maybe more of the latter than the former, but yes, regarding food, or its preparation thereof, being an art, I’m pretty sure you will agree with me that if something is prepared well, it WILL be appreciated, by almost everyone. I say almost, because there will always be a small minority who would find some reasons to dislike a dish. Still, if a food is good, it is good. There is no such thing as, to you it tastes awesome, but to me I think it’s awful. No way! That’s ridiculous!! Sure, certain tastes are exquisite and acquired. I always enjoy mentally torturing white people when they come over to Malaysia and get their first taste of the heavenly fruit that is the durian. They would squirm and cringe and say things like, “God never intended for men to eat this!” Of course, to some, the smell is completely disgusting, but to me, it’s one of the sweetest thing one could ever experience in life.

So yes, some tastes are truly acquired, but majority of what we would consider good food is certainly good food as we know it. It takes a perfect blend of herbs, ingredients and sometimes proper technique to mix in and bring out the best of flavors and aroma of a good dish.

That is with food. The other example is in music. No sane man would look at me going up to a piano and playing random notes at an irregular tempo and at varying volumes and say that THAT piece of music that I played is beautiful. If you do not believe me, I dare you to sit beside me while I even attempt to play a “proper piece” of music. Trust me, you’ll be bored by the time I get to the next line. I was actually a lot better years ago though! Really, I was!! Anyway, my point is that in music, it takes effort to sit down and properly compose a piece of music that hopefully ends up as a timeless classic or is the first piece a music student would play when they enter the realms of the musical world. Why do some songs sell and some don’t? Because some are good and some are bad. Some are exciting and some are boring. Again, you can’t say that this is subjective. I’m beginning to think that such a statement is merely a lie we tell ourselves when we fail to produce something decent in a futile effort to console ourselves.

Hey wait. I’m supposed to be talking about photography. How did I digress to this thing about the subjectivity of art (or lack of it thereof)?! Right. Back to the topic. See, this is why I never actually got a good grade in my essays. Too bad, no one’s going to be grading this, so yeah, suck it!! Erm, back to photography. Yes. So. Now. It is one thing to take pictures. The next question is, what do you do with them?? I think it’s at this time that I bring to our attention something that we all do – we take a picture of people we love, whether it’s our entire family, or our husband/wife, our boyfriend/girlfriend, fiancee, our children, or even our dog, and we set it on our office desk, or in our bedroom, or we’ll just set it as our desktop and ipad wallpaper, or simply just stick it in our wallet. Again, the question is, why do we do these things? The obvious answer would be, to remind ourselves of that person. Maybe at work when our boss yells at us, or when the amount of papers just seem to keep piling up and we think our lives are miserable, we take a few moments to look at that particular picture, and we draw strength from them, or just to be reminded of that person from time to time and the sweet memories we had with them and will probably have in the near future.

Of course, that is one of the many things we do with our photos. With some, we keep them in a photo album, stored safely for about half a decade and when the time comes, we sweep the dust off them and open just to have a look at them to bring to our remembrance of the memories we had back then. Others, we choose to frame up and hang up around the house, and of course, with the photos we don’t like, we delete them.

I guess whatever the reason is, photography seems to remain more of an integral part of our lives than we think. So. Why do YOU take pictures?

Falcon, OUT!

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