Reflections: Picture Perfect
I had the opportunity to be in contact with two vastly different organizations, Photovoice SG and the Experience Museum. The former is planning to conduct photography workshops for twenty autistic secondary school students. The latter, situated at Ngee Ann Polytechnic is hoping to develop a basic photography course for its visually impaired guides.
Fortunately I have had some experience in teaching the autistic. Thus imparting photography techniques to the visually challenged became a comparatively greater challenge. In order to gain insight into their world, I decided to be a“tourist” at the Experience Museum. For an hour, I rested my eyes and my sense of sight and began to experience the surroundings using my sense of hearing, touch and assisted by a cane. We sat and talked, enveloped by darkness. The visually impaired guides reminded me of their hope to eradicate any prejudice I have towards their need and desire to learn photography.
Despite voicing my concerns, they exhibited great enthusiasm, eagerly looking forward to the course. They wanted to share their works with others and hopefully gain recognition for their achievements.
As I took my leave from the museum, the bright sunny surroundings presented me with little enlightenment. I remained doubtful about the course curriculum.
The next day I attended a sharing session at Photovoice SG. The organizer explained their purpose lies beyond the mere imparting of photography techniques. Photovoice SG wants to present photography as a channel, hence allowing autistic students the opportunity to communicate with others. At the same time, the course seeks to build the participants’ confidence. Essentially, it is art therapy. Suddenly the meaning behind Experience Museum’s “Dialogue with Darkness” program dawned upon me.
What are the necessary conditions for a flawless photo? Focus? Color temperature? Horizon accuracy? Composition? Aperture? Shutter speed? Photography goes beyond an execution of techniques. Likewise picture perfection is not confined to fixed rules. I come to realize that art is subjective. Out of focus and over exposures are thus expressions. It is critical for the photographer to understand his choice of that expressive form. The photograph serves to communicate. Even if the audience and understanding is but one, photography has achieved its goal.
After being a photojournalist for over a decade, Bob reflects on the rhythm of life and how it inter-twines with his personal photography. Reflections is a weekly column called Appreciating Life originally published every Thursday in LianHe Zaobao, a Chinese language Daily in Singapore. English translations by Sebastian Song.