The Democratic Photographic Republic of India is a project that celebrates democracy in photography craft that is seen all over the world today. The subjects of this project are the non-professional wedding photographers at Indian weddings. These photographers are essentially the invited guests at a wedding – the family and friends of the couple who are getting married. They are not photographers who were commissioned to photograph weddings. In fact, It was I who was commissioned to photograph these weddings, and in the course of these assignments, I pursued this project on the sidelines.
The project started with the first-ever wedding that I was commissioned to shoot, and it continues to evolve with every new wedding I am asked to photograph.
The landscape of these “family & friends” photographers has evolved along with the evolution of cameras. In the beginning, I noticed very few guests who used to carry a pocket camera to weddings. As camera technology evolved, first came the early DSLR camera owners. Soon, they were followed by legions of DSLR users. And the way our phones evolved, cameras became more affordable and found their way into new devices like smartphones and tablets. Today, every cousin, friend, uncle, aunt, grandpa, neighbor, and colleague is armed with a camera or photographic device in hand, and will not hesitate to make images at a loved one’s wedding. Their diversity became an important ethnographic project for me.
Many professional wedding photographers probably find this democracy a hindrance to their work. But I, though at few occasions found the space crowded, have otherwise enjoyed shooting in between the already chaotic and charged Indian wedding setting. I personally celebrate the democracy in photography, as it broke down entry-level barriers to the craft and also removed the monopolies that existed in the photography world. Today, everyone is in a position to make a photograph from their own perspective and communicate with their audience.
The line between professional photographers and amateur photographers is blurring. I have seen many terrible professional photographers and brilliant amateur photographers. It is futile and silly to stereotype a category of these photographers based on general assumptions. I do not want to curse this ‘democracy’. A windfall change always brings with it a disruption of existing structures and institutions. Democracy in photography has precisely done that.
In my opinion, one should not try to curb or discourage this democracy. Instead, we should encourage visual literacy and photography education for the mainstream. This would improve the quality of the visual communication seen in our daily lives. After all, the ways of seeing this world are as important as handling the camera when it comes to becoming a photographer.
The world photography day is observed every year on 19th August. Its origins are to mark the anniversary of the patenting of the first practical photographic process – the Daguerreotype. Personally, I’d like to see the day to celebrate the democracy of this craft – To be able to photograph a subset of our universe from our individual perspectives and be able to share with the rest of the world. Long live this democracy!
Here is the gallery containing photographs from this project.
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