Photographs and Memory: A Conversation

Do you want to be a photographer?

“Nahi Sir, bilkul hi nahi” (No Sir, absolutely not).

Then why are you doing photography here?

“Mujhe padhai karni hai” (Because this money supports me to continue my education).

What’s is your ambition in life?

“IAS aafsar banna hai” (To become an IAS officer).

How many photographers are there in this temple?

“Karib pachas hongey. Hamare union hai… aapko yahe pe kam karna hai toh union pe naam likhana parega” (About fifty. We have a union. Whoever wants to work in this temple as a photographer, he has to register).

How many people visit this temple everyday?

“Bahot… anginat. Yeh shaktipeeth hai… aab aap samajh lo” (many, uncountable. This is a Shakti Peeth, hope you can understand).

How much you are charging for each photograph?

“Baas bis rupiah” (Only ₹20)

And how many photographs you are capturing in a day?

“Paanch saatso ho jata hai” (About 500-700).

Is it the combined figure of all fifty photographers?

“Nahi nahi… itne toh sirf ham khichte hai” (No no, I alone capture this much).

Then what about others?

“Woh bhi sayad utnahi khichte hai” (They may also take similar number of snaps everyday).

How come? Each of you captures few hundred snaps everyday, that’s impossible.

“Yahan kabhi bhi pachas ko aap eksath nahi payoge… dash yah bara hote hai roj. Kaal jaise mere class hai… hum nahi aayenge. Par sayed koi aur aayenge, ho sakta hai nahi bhi aaye. Matlab yaha pe koi photographer banne ke liye nahi kaam karta hai. Par yeh char-chhe wale prints hamare jindegi thora asan kar deto hai. Mere liye jaise padhai hai, aur kisike liye pariwar ko khush rakhne ka dusra rasta hai” (Not all fifty photographers are present everyday. It’s about 10-12 photographers are present in the temple everyday. I’ll be not here tomorrow, I’ve to go to college to attend my classes. Someone else probably come tomorrow or may not come. Actually no one here wants to be a photographer. But t hese 6×4 prints make our life sustainable. For me it’s education, for another one it may be added income to support his family).

Everyone now-a-day has a cellphone. How can you manage to convince these visitors to sell prints of their photos?

“Jab log line pe khare ho jate hai, humlog wahi se unke pichhe parte hai. Jabtak woh puja deke bahar aati hai, tabtak kuchh log toh maan jate hai” (We are starting to approach them from the moment they stand in the queue. By the time they finish their worshipping and out of the exit door, few of them are already convinced).

Why did you put all these guitars, some of them even don’t have strings?

“Log yahan mandir mein guitar leke gana gaa raha hai, aise photo khichana chahte hai. Arey woh film dekha apne… Rockstar… waise Ranveer jaise photo kichana chahte hai” (People like to be captured as singers performing in the temple. Have you saw the movie ‘Rockstar’? Youngsters loves to see themselves as Ranveer (Kapoor)).

So are you maintaining any serial who’s turn it is or it’s random?

“Kuch nahi hai… par do photographer ek customer ke pichhe nahi padta. Hum jis customer ko manane ko kosis kar rahe hai, unke pichhe dusra koi nahi bhagenge” (Absolutely random. But no other photographer will approach to the person or family whom I am requesting).

Everyone is taking selfies now-a-day. How come they suddenly become interested in printed photos?

“Arey Sir, selfie kya yaadein hote hai… yeh photo rahe jayenge… saalo baad ise dekhke log yaad korenge” (selfies are not memories. These prints will remain and become memories).

Can I take your photo?

“Maat karo Sir. Ghar pe pata chal jayega toh bahot gussa karenge” (No Sir, please don’t. If my parents will know that I’m doing photography, they will be very angry).

A few minutes conversation with Rahul, a photographer in his early twenties at Tarachandi temple at Sasaram, Bihar that is considered as one of fifty one Shakti Peethas. After finishing my assignment, while returning from a Routine Immunization session site, my co-passengars were keen to visit the Shakti Peetha. And I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to perceive the cultural ‘pulse’ of this part of the country. Rahul is studying commerce graduation from a local college and wants to become an IAS. The highest numbers of IAS, IPS & IFS aspirants are from Bihar and one in ten bureaucrats shaping the destiny of India in North or South Block is from Bihar. Respecting Rahul’s wish not to photograph him, I restricted myself to take the photographs of other photographers and the artefacts.

There is an ongoing international debate on how photographers, especially photojournalists, will survive only through photography while print media is in crisis. But there is an another unasked social perspective. Does photography has any role to make someone’s life sustainable or supports their aspirations in life, who actually doesn’t want to become a photographer. When one in every ten urban youth in the metro cities is aspiring to become a pro-photographer with a digital camera in their hand, the above conversation may initiate a new analytical discussion.

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