The Magic Frame: Solitary or Not?Is


These days, I am reading a book on the history of mathematics. Mathematics is a fascinating subject, and one of my regrets, is that I had a lousy professor in my first year of engineering. He almost completely killed my interest in the subject for years.

Anyway, I read about Andrew Wiles. He is the gent who solved Fermat’s Last Theorem, and it was about 350 years between the writing of the theorem and the solving of it. Popular myth, it seems, had portrayed both as solitary geniuses, however, a closer reading of their history reveals that they were in active touch with many mathematicians. The author then says that mathematics, and mathematical study, is a very social exercise, with mathematicians often sharing ideas with each other.

He contrasts this with, for instance, literature, which he believes is a more solitary exercise.

Ideas, however, tend to migrate. In the 6th century AD, Indian mathematicians developed the numbering system that we use today. It was in the 7th century that the Arabs started to come to India, and they imbibed this system, which travelled with them to Europe. The Hindu numerals, or Hindu-Arabic numerals, as they were later called, became the world’s numbering system.

You may ask, what does this have to do with photography? 

Is photography a solitary or collaborative pursuit?

I do go out with people, on occasion, to shoot. There are times, when we need assistants. However, for me, I like to shoot (especially when I am working on my private projects) alone. It allows me to be who I am. I choose my times, my conversations (with people on the street), my schedules, my angles, my food, and my readings.

However, when I look at the works of other people, they inspire me. Laura Macky, for instance, put me onto luminosity masks. I look at the portraits of John Smith, and I love them. I follow many photographers on 500px and Facebook, and they inspire me. I learn from their styles and techniques.

I watch videos, I read books, and I keep learning and adapting my style.

The development of my style, my technique, my skill is then not just a solitary exercise. It depends on the input that I receive from photographers across the world.

Is photography then, a solitary pursuit?  Or a collaborative one, sometimes passive, and other times active?

My photographic vision, and the development of this journey, is mine and mine alone. Yet, to feed it, I need inputs and feedback and ideas from people across the world.

What is your take on this?



  1. I think photography – the actual “doing” of it, is very solitary. Just the camera, the shooter, and the vision of the composition. However, to be a photographer in that moment one must have been collaborative and been informed by the styles of other greats that came before. So, it is both, at different times.

  2. It is a solo moment when you press the button but one of shared visual experiences from many directions…even subliminal visual stimulation adds to your experience. As for Maths…..I should have seen beyond the mere calculation of adding, dividing or subtracting ….but I also blame my teachers who made it sound so boring and merely a process vital to daily life and certainly not an aid to discovery.

    1. Yeah.. That is one reason why I believe that the photographer must own that moment. It is his/hers alone.

      Maths, to be very honest, depends a lot on the quality of the teacher. In itself, it can be an abstract subject, but a beautiful one. The one I referred to killed my enjoyment of maths for many years

  3. I think each of our endeavours is a collaborative experience in that what we learn, we generously pass on to others to add to their experiences. A writer sits alone at his work, as does a painter, a composer and a photographer. Yet we often come to our art inspired by the work of others in the field. I liken it to a relay race where we learn from others then take up the baton with our own experiences which we will hand on to the next generation.

  4. If I shoot with other people, I like being with other photographers. Going to take pictures with my husband for example is not as fun. I like to go with other people because I feel safer I guess although I think I do better photography on my own.

    1. I never go with my wife.

      She asks me to take a photo of her, then tells me I am a bad photographer, and this is bad for my ego.

      In general, I am happiest alone

      1. oh lol…definitely not with your wife then. Dave just gets tired of stopping over and over and over with me taking pictures. We have more fun together when we’re both engaged similarly in our surroundings. It’s why I started my own camera club! Best that way.

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