The abhyAsam and vairAgyam of Photography

“Photography? Same as Yoga – abhyAsa-VairAgyA!”

– Interview with Jay Shankar, RASA member & avid photographer

Jay Shankar can be seen with a camera in his hand during face to face meetings, capturing the various moods of RASA members. He is an avid photographer who evokes and creates magic with his photos, nature and heritage lover, seeker, and an elder who shares his learning and time with much graciousness, humour and generosity. He shares his perspectives on how he relates photography to the practice of yoga:

“Photography is the same as yoga. Click, reflect and click again. In the beginning 1 out of 50 (photos) will be good. I started with a box camera that my dad gave me when I was in 10th or 11th std. He was a photographer. I just pointed and clicked. This was in the 1970s. Then photography got more motivation after my son was born, just to capture all his moods. Then about 7 years back I took this internal _sankalpam_ between me and myself: that I am going to take good photos. Until then I had been apologetic about it. This is when I started transforming from a clicking guy to a photography guy. The real abhyAsa began then.

In these 7 years, I have realised that I am not actually capturing the object in my frame. I am capturing the light as it plays on the object, as I see it. The photograph is essentially what **_I see_**, and not the object. If it is not evoking something in me, then it’s just not happening. This flower – how can I capture it in such a way that it looks as beautiful in the picture as it looks to me in real life? It is not reality, as is, but my expression of it. I am showing what I saw and got evoked with. So there is a full journey from what is, to what is captured, and further to what is presented. 

But it has to evoke…something has to move in the heart. The evocation is more relevant and real than the picture you saw. That image from that moment in time would have changed. You would have changed. The next time you look at the same object it looks different, everything has changed. So it is in the ‘here and now’ that it’s all happening. Capture the evocation. That is what carries through and not the object. So click, reflect, look at it again, click again just for the joy of it…. abhyAsa. 

VairAgyam for me is to stay with my practice of photography. I have this strong belief that there is always a beautiful image around me. Beauty is around us all the time, I am able to see it sometimes only. So I look at what evokes me. I edit and eliminate all that is extra from the frame, to stay with something that is beautiful and alive for me. It is like pranayama or chanting – letting go of all distractions and staying with the breath or the chant. It is only the sound of the chant, or the experience of my breath that I am with.

This vairAgyam of letting go of distractions helps me to rejuvenate my sensing of the knowledge I have acquired. I simply have to be at it, read, study, explore… I am _**at it**._ And I have to feel it is world class – it has got nothing to do with anyone else saying it. 

Then what happens is – sa tu dIrgha-kAla-nairantarya-satkAra AdarA-AsevitaH dRDhabhUmiH |
स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारादरासेवितो दृढ़भूमि: ॥ १४ ॥
I serve my practice with love for a long time, and it takes root in me.”

Here is a collection of Jay Shankar’s photographs around the theme of ‘Heritage’.


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