Life has become easier as the digital revolution has completed a substantial circle of its existence. We live in an era where everything is literally a click away and the movement of information is now faster than light and sound. As visuals flow from across the planet of every minor incident, images are a ‘taken for granted’ form of communication leaving the photographer community in utter confusion. While the ‘artist’ tag is reserved for a few celebrated photographers, the average photographers who form your news and entertainment feed are in a way invisible.
Having spent many days in the photographer’s pit at several fashion weeks over my past few months at Fashion101.in, my experience at the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai came as a shocking yet eye-opening one. The photographer’s pit is supposedly the best seat in the house. It is directly facing the ramp so that photographers can take the best frontal shots of the models, designers and celebrities who walk down the ramp, with guests and journalists on either side. Due to limited space and a large number of photographers from various media and digital organization, however, it is not as rosy as it seems.
As an ‘outsider’ in the circuit of photographers of Mumbai (since I am based in Delhi), life seemed too tough to be real. Every inch of space in the pit had to be fought for like a piece of coveted land. Forming a queue almost an hour before the show, I ran through the door to find a space that best suited the angles and aesthetics of my frames. I had won a battle, I thought, before I was exposed to another. The battle of being an ‘outsider’.
I was rudely reminded by other photographers to vacate the place as it ‘belonged’ to them. When I asserted that I stood in the line to acquire this particular spot, they reminded me that it is not a ‘BEST bus’ where being first in line was enough. Before I could say anything in my defence, a large number of photographers reminded me that if I didn’t comply, they would ensure I didn’t get any place in the pit in future.
Disappointed as I was in being unwelcomed by my own kind, I found solace in the fact that I was not the only one. With me in the pool of ‘others’ were bloggers, social-media handlers, small-time photographers and women.
It was conveniently assumed that the women were in it as a ‘hobby’ and that their presence should not obstruct the ‘professionals’ in executing their job. The presumption overlooks the fact that these women photographers and photobloggers were also there for ‘serious’ work, by no means less in significance or quality.
Nonetheless, a touch of ‘humour’ distracted us from the pain of being ‘outsiders’ – the insulting humour targeted at celebrities who patiently posed despite the cheap and slapstick comments passed at them.
Wondering what made the Mumbai pit such a disagreeable experience as compared with those in Delhi, I realized that perhaps, the problems lies in the speed of consumption and the amount of competition in the industry. The number of photographers has swelled absurdly in the past few years. With the growth in quantity, their visibility is further diminished.
Perhaps, subconsciously, the photographers have made peace with it. They have created their own little universe within lifestyle and fashion journalism. One that is away from the glitterati, the sophistication and the refined taste of the writers and other professionals. To them, a good shot is almost everything –sometimes, more than courtesy, manners and even professionalism.