The Magic Frame: On Looking. Part One



Over the last few days, I met two photographers, who promptly asked me what camera I use. When I said that I use a Nikon D810, they looked at me approvingly. One said that she has a Canon, and looked me up and down. When I was asked what other equipment I have, the second chap then told me that I can indeed photograph.

It was almost as though my camera, and the set of equipment that I own, define my skills as a photographer.

Neither asked me what areas of photography I specialize in, how I use light, my editing philosophy, or how I conceptualize a photograph. They were not interested in knowing my compositional skills, my plans to develop my work, or even if I still work in film. Which, I do.

Neither asked me, nor seemed interested in, what drives me as a photographer.

The camera, and the megapixels seemed to define me, not my ability to see.

Ultimately, photography is about seeing, and then using the tools of the trade to bring your vision to life. It is how you see a subject, and what personal stamp that you want to put on a subject that defines you as a photographer.

To some extent, photography is about life. It is about how you see life. It is also what aspects of life that interest you, and how your personality shapes your work. For instance, I do a lot of landscape work. The ecology of our planet interests me, and I love to bring it to life.

I also love portrait work, because I enjoy looking at a person and bringing out something of his/ her personality.

Still life, macro and abstract work absorb me, because they allow me to see patterns in nature and explore concepts I may not have done otherwise.

I enjoy life. I enjoy raw life, and this is what drives me to the streets. Having spent years in the boardroom, the streets keep me grounded. The people on the streets have a raw sense of humor, which is fantastic.

Photography is about looking at the story behind the image. We all, as photographers, stamp something of our personality onto the subjects we photograph. A photograph is our vision of the world. It is our choice, in choosing angles, times of day. It is our choice, in the subjects we select.

A photograph is an expression of the imprint of our mind on the world.

The equipment we use, the software we use, are tools to help us achieve these ends. Our skill in using them, is what then makes us a skilled, good, or great photographer.


  1. Rajiv, that was an unfortunate incident. It is a shame that people are that judgmental about your camera. “Ultimately, photography is about seeing,” as you have said, and I agree. I have heard stories about people comparing equipment but not everyone with an expensive camera has a passion for photography. Not every professional uses fancy equipment, either. I agree that the tools we use are a means to an end, to capture a bit of that unique perspective vision. You’re an awesome photographer, and the proof is in your wonderful work.

  2. There seems to be a lot of “snobbism” equipment wise in photography. It’s what you do with what you got that is important. Your approach brings the artistry to the subject.

  3. I agree with your point of view and personally I (try to) ignore snobs like those you had encountered. Any kind of art form is an expression or an extension of yourself. You encapsulate an entire universe into your work and display it to the world, some will understand it some will not, but that will not stop us doing what we love. The “kind” of tools we use are not really that important, the skills of using them will speak of your artistry. Great post.

    1. Thank you! Yes… It is true that the tools are a means to the end. You need to know how to use them, but without vision, it does not work.
      I read, in a book, by Brooks Jensen I think, that people like Ansel Adams used cameras that were primitive by today’s standards. Yet, they produced works of magic

      1. I agree that vision is essential, I’m not a professional photographer, I started my en-devour with a camera last year and started posting on my site some photography and I’m still learning how to make some “magic”. One could say I’m totally illiterate as far as knowledge goes about photography, my instincts, eyes and some kind of vision naturally guiding me when I use my camera, so I have much to learn. Professionals like you are very much of a value for me to follow and learn this beautiful art form. 🙂

      2. Well, I cannot draw to save my life. If you see the blog post that I have scheduled for tomorrow, you will see that I cannot go beyond a stick insect like drawing!
        I enjoy photography, and I enjoy writing

  4. Hello Rajiv-san,
    I couldn’t agree more!
    I too, never understand the ‘snobbery’ with equipment and lenses. As you say, it is the person who makes the images, not the lens. You can see a lot of that here. It really makes me wonder about people…

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