The Meaning of Photography (to me)

// Rant alert, and several photography-flashbacks. Dips into a negative ditch but ends on a positive note //

Let's start with a single photography that I managed to scavenge out of the remainders of creativity and passion lying deep in my cerebral cortex.

Not my usual type of photography, but I wanted to explore a bit.
Don't worry, I'm not naked. I'm wearing socks!
Something that's been on my mind for a while is the dynamic that photography has had in my life in recent times.

With an ever-increasingly busy life with exams and assignments and greater responsibilities, photography has slowly diminished in my life, though some may argue otherwise. As you may know, I've started to enter into the event-photography business, and consequently, things have taken a radical change.

Although it is true that I take my camera with me far more often than I used to -- almost every outing of some significance will have 'Manjekah + camera' attending -- but slowly along the way something changed. Yes, I document events by taking photographs, and enjoy it none-the-less, but something that has changed in the last year is the meaningful photography that I take.

Now you may argue that 'meaningful' is subjective, and I completely agree. I think that the photographs I currently take do 'mean' something to people -- that is, most of my photographs today are for events and/or documentive sake. For 'memories', I suppose, which is a good thing.

But for me, the original purpose and reason I became so interested in photography was for meaning. For taking photographs for the sake of taking photographs -- because I loved it. Today I find myself taking ordinary photographs of 'special' things like birthday cakes and group photos, which isn't all that bad, but I've somehow lost my ability to take photos of seemingly meaningless things and made them into something worthwhile taking photos of.

A chess set isn't all that interesting, really. That didn't stop me in the past, but today it probably would.

I used to take photographs not because of an event, but because of an idea. There would be no 'special day' such as a twenty-first birthday or charity event. It was not because I was 'going to the Night Noodle Markets' or some festival. It was because I had a passion and I genuinely wanted to take photos of something, just because.

There's nothing quite interesting about a train station that I visit almost every second day, but that used to be irrelevant.
I would pour so much effort, time, and thought into perfecting these photographs. And I would finish with so much pride and beaming courage.

But now, every time I edit photographs I groan. I dread and complain about the time and effort that I'm forced to put into these photographs because I know I'm not doing them for myself. I'm doing them because I feel obliged to, or for someone else. That's not what photography ought to mean.

Sometimes I'm not even sure if I should introduce myself as someone who 'loves photography' anymore, because sometimes I'm not sure if that's true anymore.

I was reminded (by Facebook's 'On This Day' feature) that about one year ago I took my 'AFL' first photo (A Fine Line, a project which initially started as a way to depict my brother growing up, question the line between adulthood and childhood, and also challenge the notion that adults cannot be childish, and vice-versa). I had intended to contribute to it twice a year -- every six months -- but I had missed both my six month and twelve month due date.

One of the unused AFL photographs, from October 2014.
It reminded me that one year ago, I was in the midst of my HSC exams -- the biggest and most important exams in my life thus far -- and yet, I had made the time to pour endless effort into the AFL project and photography. How? Why? It was because I genuinely loved doing it.

But now? 

Perhaps it's because I'm busy. Perhaps it's because I have too much going on in life. Perhaps it's because I have other things that I've prioritised. Perhaps it's because photography doesn't mean the same thing to me anymore.

It takes a lot of courage to finally admit it to myself, because I genuinely miss having that passion burning within me. I part of me feels ashamed, guilty, and most of all, disappointed in myself. I only realised it today when I tried to take some photographs/portraits of myself for the reason 'just because' (for the first time in a long, long time), and found myself thinking 'Eurgh I could be doing something more productive right now' and self-diagnosing myself with a severe case of 'ceebs'.

And it hit me so fast that I had to take a double-take. What happened in the last year? How did I change from someone who loved photography, and essentially didn't go a few weeks without doing a mini-project (even in the busiest period of my life), into someone who couldn't even devote two hours to taking photos in my own home for 'fun'?

An old self-portrait shoot

But, as we all know, realising a problem is the first step. 

I did end up taking photographs this Sunday morning, for 'fun'. For no reason except for my own enjoyment (though, the level of enjoyment it gave me was debatable). Two hours later, I'm sitting here reflecting on a big revelation that I've just come to and also with a single photograph.

Yes, it's quickly and shittily filtered, edited, and cropped, and most definitely a very different style, but it's a start. Today is the day I realised my change and today is the day I start to turn things around.

I want photography to run in my blood again. 

In a sense, ultimately, I want it to have meaning again. Somewhere along the line I let go of the 'artistic' photography I held so dear to my heart and I became a commercial photographer. I'm not saying that one is necessarily better than the other, because they aren't -- they're merely two different types. 

But for me personally, photography was an art-form. It was a vent-out space for passion, stress-relief, and meaning. I believe it's time to change that 'was' into an 'is'.

"Hi, my name is Manjekah. And I love photography."


  1. Aw manj it's okay - I find I do the same thing with having such a packed schedule that I forget to take time for myself and just relax and do the things that I want. It's hard to find that balance, but I'm glad that you've realised. I think with uni it's also hard since we can structure our lives a lot more, and you seem like the type to just keep putting stuff in your schedule because you think you'll be able to manage it (dw me too). Sometimes you just gotta take a good step back and detox from all this busy-ness. You'll make it through and it will come back. :)



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Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.