Nature Photography: Beauty, Art and Truth - A conversation between me and myself

Sept 23 2018

Copyright © 1993- Ganesh H. Shankar

"mySelf": "Hi Ganesh, it is too long since we met. Though we live close to each other we hardly get to talk to each other. You seem to be too busy in your own world" (smile).
me: "Ya, that is the irony of life, whatever "life" means."

"mySelf": "Who's life?" (smile). "Just kidding, please go on".
me: "Of course "my" life. I don't know enough about "your" life (smile).
me: "I would love to talk to you often. May be I need to work on priorities in my life".

"mySelf": (smile). "Ganesh, you have been doing "Nature Photography" for very long now. For every few years you seem to contradict what you said, thought earlier. Is that an accurate observation?" (smile)
me: "That is correct. Is that good or bad in your view?" (smile)
"mySelf": (smile).

"mySelf": "Back to the question" (smile), "A decade ago you said capturing just beauty (or nature as is) is boring. We need to be creative in our expressions, then you said art is what you care about more and called yourself a "Fine Art Nature Photographer". You then attempted to express emotions and feelings using forms and shapes in nature. Now you seem to sing a different song about "Truth" forgetting what you said earlier!"

"mySelf": "I hope I am not offending or embarrassing you with this question" (smile).
me: "Even if I think you did, do I have a choice?" (smile)

me: "Jokes apart, with all honesty, it has been an experience of peeling an onion. A few more leaves left, I guess (or is it?)"

"mySelf": "And you cried too while peeling the onion?" (smile)
me: "Ya, kind of. But you were not with me when I was crying" (smile)

"mySelf": "Come on! ..."
me: "That's OK, not your fault" (smile). "Back to the topic, while peeling the onion, I just said what I knew then. What I say now is what I know now"

"mySelf": "You know or you think you know?"
me:"Ya, I know where you are going. Kantian philosophy is very interesting."

"mySelf": "Back to peeling onion, it is obvious that repetition of anything (be it beauty) is boring beyond a point. So is the accidental creativity or creativity for the sake of creativity. But then, why did you stop thinking emotions and feelings making the fabric of your art? That is strange!"
me: "You think so? I thought you know more than me!" (smile).

"mySelf": "I guess that is not your false modesty!" (smile).
me: "As far as I know it is not but I don't know enough about me. May be you do!" (smile).

"mySelf": (smile) "You mean I know more about you or about myself?".
me: "I don't know!"

me: "Anyway, back to your question on why not emotion and feelings as fabric of my art - I have a long answer"
"mySelf": "I would love to hear, Ganesh. Please go ahead. Not sure when we will meet again!"
me: "I hope that is not false modesty on your part!" (smile)

"mySelf": (smile) "What you think? You know me anyway!" (smile)
me: (telling myself) "I am not sure!" (wondering)

me: "Ok, back to art, let me correct myself here. I still think emotions and feeling are fabric of art (unlike, art being mere "a point of view"). However, I now care more about truth than art based on expression of feelings and emotions."

"mySelf": "Interesting, why so?"

me: "In some sense we can reason about emotions and feelings in terms of what Darwn has taught us. In a related note, about emotions not necessarily about art, if you google for "top 100 photos" you will see a links like this. Yes, they all convey strong emotions. However, most of them convey similar kind of emotions - misery and sadness. If you scroll through that link you will find photo series like this one. I think it is clear why they are in top 100 photographs. Happiness is taken for granted. We love ourselves. We don't want to see ourselves in misery. The hope is that images like these will do some good to get us out of scenarios like these. Ironically misery of other species in nature which does not look like human species does not seem to hurt us as much.

All that goes back to Darwin's observation on survival. That said, some of those series of images makes me think nature's creation of human species is not as perfect as, for example, elephant species. I hope these errors will get corrected in the next millennium (whether we like it or not). Further, it is not just about self preservation and of our own progeny. Probably social and moral fabric have deeply interwoven around us. It got too complicated for me. Now my mind seem to lean more towards truth than personal truths."

Last Light: My Mother

"mySelf": "I guess it was very tough for you to make that image. Do you believe in body and soul?"
me: "I know what body is. Do you know what soul is?"
"I plead my ignorance. But for Immanuel Kant (Critique of pure reason) I would have preferred to take an arrogant position here."

"mySelf": (smile).

"mySelf": "Can you accept art as truth?"
me: "I think at this time I prefer to keep it separate. Let truth be truth!"

"mySelf": "Is truth and personal truth same for you?"

me: "Some time back my dear friend Nirlep Singh shared a conversation between Einstein and Tagore on nature of reality. It is an interesting reading. More so is a few interpretations of the context of that discussion.

The question Einstein posed to Tagore was:

"Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?".

For Tagore, in his words,

"The infinite personality of man comprehends the universe.
There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality,
and this proves that the truth of the universe is human truth."

I think Tagore's views had their roots in Advaita Vedanta.

But, for Einstein,

"the truth is independent of human beings."

I think Einstein's truth had its roots in Spinoza's God (Nature).

"The root of the greatest errors in philosophy lies in projecting our human purposes, criteria and preferences into the objective universe. God is beyond our little good and evil. Good and bad are relative to human and often individual tastes and ends, and have no validity for a universe in which individuals are ephemera" - Baruch Spinoza.

At the end it appears that both seem have agreed to disagree. Tagore said:

"..if there be any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing."

Einstein, who strongly believed in truth beyond human existence declares:

"Then I am more religious than you are!"

Conversation (assuming there was one) ends there!

Having tried to save both religion and science it is not clear to me what position Immanuel Kant would take in this case!

Having stared at infinite stars sitting alone in our jungles for hours on no moon days, I humbly believe in Einstein's version of the truth.

"mySelf": "That is interesting! How will all these get reflected in the images you make now on?"

me: "I think through my images I try only to wonder about nature in general and life that nature creates. At times I tend to believe in Intelligent Design even though science refutes it."
"I think only in the designs of nature complexity, beauty and purpose come together. Part of the nature that we understand appears to be only tip of the iceberg. Probably we can't understand it. I think Kant will live on for ever, not sure of Darwin though!

Beauty, complexity and purpose

"mySelf": (smile). "That was an interesting discussion!"
me: "Please, let us talk often!"

"mySelf": "You have no time, I have it in plenty" (smile)
me: "I wish I could live in your world!"

"mySelf": "Do you think my world is different than yours?" (smile)
me: "Wish I knew!"

"mySelf": (smile). "Thanks Ganesh. Bye!"
me: "Thank you! Bye.."

People in the conversation

You may substitute:

"mySelf" with my "self"
In the first B&W image, larger elephant with "mySelf", suckling one with "me"
B&W portrait at the end as representative abstract outline of "mySelf".

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