Photography – The Democratic Art Form

by Samar S Jodha

It is said till the arrival of photography, there was minimal space for self-expression. Not everyone was talented or trained to be a painter, be it landscape, portrait or even documenting one’s surroundings. But with the arrival of photography, this started to change. Though one challenge remained, that device, the camera, was a mechanical challenge. You only owned one if you were a professional, an amateur or just had money to buy this expensive toy as part of your show-off. Some data jargon, about two decades+ back, on the arrival of digital cameras, the walls of being technically qualified to take pictures started to melt. And finally, in 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital cameras, largely due to growth in Japan and Korea. In 2005, Nokia became the world’s most sold digital camera brand. In 2006, half of the world’s mobile phones had a built-in camera. According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.648 billion, meaning 83.32% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. It’s estimated that the number of pictures taken this year/2022 is about 54,400 every second, 196 million per hour, 4.7 billion per day, 32.9 billion per week, 143 billion per month, and 1.72 trillion before this year ends. Now that we are passed the spread of this device’s outreach let’s look at the actual impact on the photo-making itself. No prizes for guessing; vanity and human nature of projection couldn’t have been in better times, the selfie culture. At times with self+friends+environment and at times the self-obsession, carpet bombing, more like questioning one’s self-esteem or issues of state of mental health. And to add a tool, the sharing on social media. But the bigger picture, because of demystification and affordability of the camera, has created a much larger interest in the space of visual self-expression. No other art form has gained recognition than photography. Yes, this technology disrupted the professional space of photography, hurting countless professional photographers and shutting down businesses and other photo-related collateral damage. But the more significant gain, nearly everyone is a photographer, the interest in picture making, the consumption or sharing is through social media (yes, all part of digital noise) or generally people documenting their lives around their environment (professionally the “documentary photographer”) Like all creative expression, it’s your individuality and your way of expression. There is no good or bad picture; there is always room for bettering your picture. And because there are so many images all around us, it gives an opportunity to see, compare, learn and improve our photo-making. Finally, photography wins, like this gentleman I spotted on the roadside. He decided to stop his auto rickshaw and make a picture of this row of larger than life Ravans, what he thought was his frame of self-expression. Happy Dussehra & Subho Bijoy, everyone, and live your pictures every day