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Perspective / August 18, 2018

Why macro photography? Because every small thing matters!

A little bit about me

As a child, I was very fascinated with small things. May be because they were either at or below my eye level. Or possibly I could conveniently hold them. For instance, I would take a coin and bring it close to my eye up to the point it was sharp enough. Then, I would observe how the inscriptions were laid out. I would minutely observe the contours of each letter or the national emblem embossed on the surface. Until a few years back, I never realized that the black outline of the embossed letter my brain took cognizance of,  was a fine shadow casted by angle of the light! Since forever, every small thing matters to me. Even today.

Back then, all of this was nothing more than a play to me. In hindsight, it now appears as my innate curiosity. I would like to believe that it also honed my observation skills, too.

Anything that was tiny enough to fit my hands – dinky cars, pencil tip (even broken ones), sharpener, eraser, nuts, ants, ladybirds, flowers etc. – I would spend considerable time taking a close look at them.

Growing up in a world where everyone and everything is bigger than me, was quite intimidating. This miniature world appeared relatable. It gave me a sense of belonging.

Fascination that remained

Eventually, life took over. Between school, studies, homework, projects, and other things, the gap between me and that tiny world widened. Us humans have surrounded ourselves with activities and things that drag us away from the world we were born into. Nature, however, manages to sustain.

What comes naturally to us, persists.

As I grew older, seemingly away from that tiny world, the bond that I had formed with it remained. With time, it manifested in different ways. Let’s take books, for example. I love reading books. Always have. I started off by reading old classics by Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and Ruskin Bond, to name a few. At that young age, I didn’t know that they all were master writers who wrote those revered stories. All I knew was that they either wrote short stories, or the form factor of their books was small. Over the years, I have developed taste for non-fiction books. But, the default attraction to smaller sized books, that can fit easily into my hands, has sustained.

I have had similar liking for smaller gadgets, too. I prefer smaller mobile phones over the bigger ones. iPod Nano is far better than iPod Touch (it’s sad that the products have been discontinued). A MacBook Air is better than MacBook Pro. Mirrorless cameras are preferable over the conventional DSLRs. (I am very excited about the new Nikon Mirrorless camera system!)

And what remains, persists…

I feel that we are all nothing but breathing magnets. We attract what we truly want for ourselves. At least that is what I have experienced over the years. One of the main reasons for my love for small things was their simplicity. I was pulled towards modern architecture which relies heavily on utilising the simplicity of basic shapes to create a deep sense of space, with limited elements. It is easy to add elements to anything. Creating a simple, clean, and well thought out art form using select elements is extremely difficult.

Saying more with less, brings a clarity of thought and perception. This approach allows for a deeper connection between the creator and the observer.

Utilizing the principles of minimalism, macro photography has the power to bring an elevated meaning to our common place notions. A flower is a flower. We take it for granted. I have always wondered as to why a Nature’s creation that signifies beauty and bliss is less celebrated. Because it is not as humongous as a skyscraper? Or is it because man can’t stake claim to its creation? The moment a photographer chooses to surrender himself, his belief system, to take a close look, he finds what the world chooses to ignore.

… in everything you do, …

Look at the photograph below. I photographed this wild flower last year. It was so tiny that it almost blended with the surrounding grass and foliage. The nature gave it a different shape and colour, an identity of its own. But, I can assure you, innumerable people would have walked past it without even noticing it.

small thing matters

Macro shot of the mimosa pudica flower

Did you notice the shape of its petals? They are not of usual shape. They branch out in all directions with a pollen at the tip. Notice the pattern they create. Its vivid pink colour, with hot pink flower head and white pollens make it an exquisite flower. Despite its unusual shape and miniscule size, it still plays with light as a large tree or a mountain or any other man-made object would.

… till you see, believe and spread what matters!

Whilst so many people remained ignorant of its presence, how did I manage to see it? Yes, pursuing photography over the years has trained my eyes to see what most people don’t. But, it goes deeper than that.

When I started as a photographer, I was very conscious of my presence. I was always thinking about what a passerby might think of me. Being conscious of others’ judgment forced me to fit in. I preferred to look at things from a distance. The way the world wanted me to see them. This always limited my perspective, and I barely took photographs that deserved an audience.

Taking this photograph meant I must not worry about what others thought.

I had to forget the world, and myself. Crush my ego. Ignore all logic and reasoning. And let my emotions override my thoughts.

Nothing else mattered, but for the flower, its unquestionable beauty, and how that beauty was accentuated by the ambient light. The camera and me became a medium that would capture and spread its beauty. (See photos of my camera set up below. I was on the ground, in the surrounding mud framing and taking the shot, not worrying about being in the mud or what any passerby would think of me.)

The composition has nothing but the flower. Nothing else. Because, it has everything that is meant to be seen, conveyed, and felt. In that moment, on that day, of that month, of that year, that is all that mattered. And it is undebatable. Why? Because the Nature is undebatable.


Written by Shivendra Lal.

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