When we think of ‘art’, what usually comes to our minds are galleries, museums, Renaissance masters painting Greek gods, and digital illustrators who wield their magic wand over a screen. But we never think of the lenses, the frames and the artists who capture moments on film. We never think about the tremendous impact that photography has had on our world, shaping thoughts and opinions and immortalising moments.

An instant caught on camera, combining a mixture of clever skill, ceaseless patience and a hint of luck, can change the course of certain events over a long period of time - this is the power that a picture holds over the world. Photographic depictions of tragedies or harsh realities tell us visual stories and tend to have a tremendous impact on our psyche. They create waves and ripples in the framework of our society and force a step towards a different direction.

Some photographers risk their lives daily, capturing moments of war-torn nations and cities, trying to give the world some evidence of the millions who walk on a tightrope between life and death. The photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee washed up ashore on the beaches of Turkey - a raw and harsh depiction of some people’s realities shook the masses and forced world leaders to bring some much-needed change. Similarly, ‘The Afghan Girl,’ which gave a glimpse into the lives of many who lead their lives in dangerous surroundings, was another photograph that resonated with the world for a very long time. The reach and power of a photograph are unmatched. The strangest thing is, we hardly ever give this enough recognition.

(Top: Aylan Kurdi - September 2015, by Nilüfer Demir. Bottom: The Afghan Girl - 1984, photographic portrait by journalist Steve McCurry)

Studies of animal behaviour in their undomesticated and raw environment s have also come from the impending skill of the photographers, who camp out in forests and jungles for days. Their cameras capture the behavioural patterns, feeding and mating cycles, and all other attributes possessed by the animal kingdom, only to be analysed and studied later. Some of these moments are broadcast on channels like National Geographic, Discovery Channel etc. These have not only been for entertainment and educational purposes but have also become a means of spreading awareness and bringing about a mindset that stresses the need for conservation and environmental protection.

(The Moment - Captured by Yongqing Bao, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019)

These are just a few tides in the ocean of change that photography has brought to our world. Whether it’s portraits of people, their tragedies, journeys, habits and lifestyles; pictures of travellers and hitchhikers, animals and wildlife, models and singers; scenes of the sky and sea in all its glory, crime and war, or even just a method of artistic release - every picture tells a deep and profound story. With a few adjustments, lenses and shutters, and the click of a button, we can all unanimously agree that the camera is just as mighty, perhaps if not mightier, than the famed pen or the sword.

Upasana Sasikumar