Five Reasons Why Photography Might Save Your Life

This is the story of how I saved my life. And photography. 

One day, there I was, plain messing around with a camera and a short, hairy kid and friends, let me tell you, it was clear as day, in bright Kodachrome hues too, Boom! It was the day I was reborn as a father, a writer, as a human even! It was the day I found photography, after which nothing would ever the same. 

I don’t often share tips on photography and writing but when I do, they are these following five reasons why you need to run out and start snapping photos like it was going out of style.

Reason 1: Its just plain fun. What are you, a stick in the mud? Go on out, grab Doris and the kids, get some beers from the icebox and make a day of it. At least you’ll get a little sun. Take film.

© Javed Jahangir

© Javed Jahangir

Reason 2:  Taking pictures makes you see things. That’s right Einstein, didn’t see that did you? Photography makes you look for lighting and the textures of the day. Lighting makes for mood. There are as many moods as there are types of light and writers need to understand mood like movers need to know pianos. Writers need to understand composition too, for their scenes, gives readers that lived-in feel, like they know it for real.

© Javed Jahangir

Reason 3: You know why some folks technically take great shots but can’t seem to get beyond the dime store get-well card photo? You know the ones: fat kids hugging, sunsets and shaggy puppies- Hallmarky trash? It’s because most photographers don’t know about the stories in photography. They’ve got the F-stops, but no full-stops, if you catch my drift. Good photos need a story, and a good story can be made from understanding a good photo. Capice?

© Javed Jahangir

Reason 4: Every one of you mooks is a photographer. Pull out that fancy phone and start shooting already. Then study what you’ve done. What does that image capture? Is there a story there? Take random photos on the street, see any real characters there? People are strange when they think no one’s watching. Just like in the photos, strangeness is great for your little stories. Its’ sort of like eavesdropping on random chatter for dialog. Candid photos let you ‘eavesdrop’ for great source material for your stories.

© Javed Jahangir

Reason 5: Because writers are like photographers of characters. That dame you think is your muse? All she wants is to be a character in your play, or don’t you see that? Your cousin Vito who keeps subtly draping himself over your desk, as you type? He wants in.

© Javed Jahangir

Now that you know why photographs are so important, I am going to go dress my cat Mr. Bojangles in his cute bomber jacket and helmet, give that kid of mine a bow and a lollypop and really start making some tear-jerkers. Meanwhile this guy Sebastiao Salgado, I think, he might be trying to tell us something.

Refugee camp at Benako, Tanzania, 1994. © Sebastião Salgado

Refugee camp at Benako, Tanzania, 1994. © Sebastião Salgado

By J. Jahangir
Contact: javedjahangir@yahoo.com
[An earlier version of this article originally appeared in BeyondtheMargins.com.]