The Shutter Story

A photograph is just a moment captured. It is alive in its stillness. Be it a place, a person, an emotion or an event, a photograph is the only way to cling on to it, physically or otherwise.

Our friend who furnishes photographs for our articles is, by profession, a wedding photographer. But as any creative space cannot be constricted within the confines of common understanding, so is hers too. Her shared album of photographs is an alluring array of instants that exhibits existence in its entirety.

It was on a leisurely evening as I was going through her album, I perceived, almost impetuously, the potency and the promise of a photograph. What is a photograph? Just a moment captured. A tick thought beautiful and worthy by the photographer and turned into truth. The little while, as a matter of fact, exists only through the photograph. The link to the past and the license to the future. A medium that enables you to travel through time.

Early morning in the household of rural Bengal

Take a look at the above photograph. It encapsulates the early hours of winter somewhere in rural Bengal. While the man is sipping out of his morning cup as a toilsome day awaits him, the woman has many chores to attend to after she has finished cooking the day’s meal. Only the child has the liberty to make the most of the day and live up to it. My perception just begins there and before I ramble into their lives, I’ll let you imagine the rest.

An old clothesline
That brings us to another obvious and yet-not-so-obvious aspect of a photograph. Every photograph has a story. The 'real story' of the 'real-time', the story that engenders in the vision of the photographer and the story that the beholder spins out of it. Every time a different person looks at the photograph and also each time the same person looks at it.

My daughter thought this photograph was rather dull and ordinary. I could hear the telling domestic tale it told. The rusty railing belonging to a family who had been living there for long. The clothesline reminding me at once of mundane habitual living, on the one hand, and the coloured pegs of the diverse relations that we balance on the twines of our lives, on the other.

A few minutes back, yes coincidentally, I came across a quite old family photograph hand-picked from the archives. All thanks to a cousin’s yearly visit to her maternal home and her nearly ritualistic habit of digging into these gold mines. I’ll say, most of us love to flip through albums of photographs. They are a treasure trove of memories, rather fleeting moments seized to make meaningful memories.

It is through a photograph that I can relive the past. I can actually re-experience the essence it holds. It is alive in its stillness. Be it a place, a person, an emotion or an event, a photograph is the only way to cling on to it, physically or otherwise.

Kids playing Holi

For the time being, let’s shift away from photography as a creative form to clicking photographs as a quotidian custom. Now that takes me at least two decades behind when picture taking was a fairly prolonged process involving steps and strictures. I clearly remember my father’s mandatory visit to photo-labs just about the day before we were supposed to go out for our long-awaited vacation.

The camera reel had to be purchased and from that moment itself, it turned into a prized possession. Only a fixed, limited number of shots could be taken. So the number of exposures had to be more or less uniformly divided. The parameters to be taken into consideration were the span of the trip, the famous local or tourist spots to be visited, the count of members since each one deserved a few frames and similar other impromptu ones.

But today with a mobile phone in my hand, I can keep clicking. It is unlimited and I am unstoppable. The question is, "Is that for the better?" That ask baffles me too. An unconstrained act is more often than not, a mindless one. I merely keep pressing and there is hardly any heart or hand in it. I can have an n number of photographs, which I can further, very easily and at my will, edit and amend. But in the act, have I missed out ‘the moment’, that which had to be recorded and made memorable?

Kid enjoying the rain

I feel the option of the infinite takes away from us the honesty of working with the finite. The need to focus and make it as-perfect-as-possible is perhaps a thing of the past. As is the desire to live the experience. In our relentless preoccupation with the shutter, we have given up on living the story. This means that as far as engaging with the incident is concerned, the 'I' has been sacrificed for the 'eye.' The moments do not belong to us but to the lens, and that does take away the prospect of ever going back to it.

To get a hold of what I was writing, I fetched out an album of my school days. There were just a handful of photos, certainly lacking the lustre of the contemporary ones. Yet so alive with all its flaws. No pretence and so palpably candid. Natural as opposed to the premeditated and post-perfected pictures of the present times. One long look at them and I could effortlessly live through one and a half decades of my most cherished phase.

My apprehension was corroborated by the photographer herself. She mentioned a very revealing fact. Nowadays, for any regular event like a wedding or an opening ceremony, a photographer would be taking as many as 1000 photographs or more, which would then be heavily processed before its delivery to the client. This was not only time-consuming but reflected poorly on the diminishing skill of a photographer and his incompetence in capturing "the moment."

After all, technology overused makes me think whether we manoeuvre technology or is it the other way round. Such thoughts kept pouring until I was bowled out by the beauty of this photograph. I couldn’t help sharing it with you. A visual of faith and hope, of destiny and the destined, of volition and free will.

An old lady selling candles

And now, it’s your turn. Talk about your tryst with photographs and let’s share the sensation of the second!

By: Promita Banerjee Nag

This article and the opinions expressed in it are personal opinions. It is not meant for imposing specific views or endorsing a particular way of life. Also please do ignore any errors or omissions that you might come across. We pledge to learn from them. Happy viewing.


  1. Well written.

    All photographs are the rememberence of the past. it reminds the transformation.


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