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Contemplation; and the need for speed.

Mike and I have been taking photographs regularly (at least once a week) for about 2 years now. We both have day jobs, very busy day jobs. We go out to take photos when we have a break from work, usually middays or afternoons after work.

A consequence of our day jobs is that we usually have very limited time in which to do any actual photography. Going out at midday gives us only an hour, driving to a location away from work, in midday traffic, is usually not practical (although we have on occasion). So we often just walk around the immediate vicinity. It helps that our offices are fairly close and that we are in the centre of Georgetown.

Afternoon photo expeditions grant us a little more freedom as we tend to have more time. But everything is relative, more time just means an hour and a half rather than 45 minutes.

So, contemplation. What part does that play again?

For years I had been dying to get a chance to spend some time at Kaieteur Falls. This was partly because for some types of photos I need time to set up and the normal hour that you can spend there if you fly in is not enough. But a bigger part, for me, was the fact that to properly represent all that the National Park is, time is needed even by the photographer, to figure out what it is all about. There is no argument that the falls are the centrepiece, but that is not all there is, and straightforward photos of the falls are, to me, not necessarily representative of the whole experience.

My favourite photo there is the shot below. It took me at least half hour to get that scene framed and shot (it’s an HDR). But at least another half hour before that just to pick the spot from which I wanted to take the photo. The key was to spend some time there; smelling the air, listening to water flow, letting myself become calm and letting the excitement of just being there dissipate a bit.

Breathing in Kaieteur Falls

Unfortunately, as I pointed out above, we are not always afforded the opportunity to stop and look. Most of the time our photographic opportunities resemble a drive by shooting more than anything else. Our trips to Berbice and elsewhere that should take a month of slowly making our way through villages, usually take us a half day. Yet we do come away with some decent photos quite often. I’m particularly pleased with the photo below that we got on a trip to Berbice recently.

Scarred, but proud

Contemplation for us is often compressed into the barest minimum time permits. My father once likened what we do to a hunter looking for prey. The comparison is apt, but I wish it wasn’t. Much preferable to us (I think I can speak for Mike here also) would be the opportunity to sit and look, think on the scene for a while. I will speak for myself here, but I think there is a bit of shallowness to my photos with which I am often unhappy. Unfortunately, until I some rich benefactor appears, and my children grow up, time will ever be scarce and photography will continue to be a lower priority no matter how I wish otherwise.

This is very sad to me, as I believe there is so much to photograph around me, but I cannot see thanks to the need for speed and the lack of time for contemplation.

The situation that prompted me to write this occurred last Friday. St. Barnabas, an Anglican Church built in 1884 is about to be torn down to make way for a shopping centre. You can read more about that here.

I (and many others) consider this to be very unfortunate. We Guyanese are slowly, but surely, losing all of our architectural heritage. And there wasn’t much to begin with. I don’t judge either the church officials or the purchaser, they both saw an opportunity and took advantage of it, but I believe that a deeper understanding by the Government of what we are quickly losing is important in slowing the loss. Without a strong historical preservation movement, with teeth granted by the Government, we are going to be left with nothing but slab sided concrete buildings.

Expediency is trumping genuine societal growth. It is understandable, but by no means acceptable.

Anyway, getting back to the point. We worked hard on getting an opportunity to take some photos of St. Barnabas. Finally, with the assistance of the purchaser (to whom we owe thanks) we were given a brief chance to document the church interior. Nothing much was left, just a sad reminder of impending loss. I had many ideas of what photos I wanted, and how I was going to get them.

Unfortunately, on that final day, the priest in charge was unable to spare the time to give Mike and I the opportunity to sit (or stand, the pews were all gone) and contemplate the building and what photos would best represent what was left. Thanks to the “training” that we have been getting over the course of the last few years I think, despite the need for speed, we were able to make the most of what we were given.

Here then are some of the photos (the full album is here), among the last to be taken here; compressed contemplation:

The Forward Outlook


Vagrant View


Awe, now gone



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  1. Michael Lam says: July 26, 2011

    Excellent post Nik, there is so much more that we would like to do but cannot, so much more that we’d like to see but cannot, and so much more that we’d like to experience, but cannot.  
    But making the most of those opportunities that present themselves to us is important, and although we do come away with decent photographs, I personally do not believe that I make the most or the best of it, there is so much more that I “should have done”, that I “should have tried”.
    Lovely post, lovely pics!

  2. Journey Photographic says: July 26, 2011

    I think it’s wonderful you took the time to document this church – at least it will be remembered.

    I find I always take better pictures when I’ve had a chance to acclimatise to a place, but, like you, this is often a luxury time does not permit.

    • Nikhil Ramkarran says: July 26, 2011

      Thank you, you hit the nail on the head. I don’t believe being a professional photographer has a job any easier than any other, but it must be nice to sometimes have the chance to scout a location and take the time to really absorb it.

  3. vignesh TG says: July 26, 2011

    Ya i too think of that.. what happens when i get married and have kids…. everything slows down.. our priorities changes totally……  I dunno what will i do 🙁 
    btw those church shots are nice.. perfectly balanced … 

  4. Khadi says: July 26, 2011

    I’m pleased you got in there to make these. I attempted to do so a few times but had no success. “Awe, now gone” is most pleasing to me 🙂

  5. Sarah says: July 26, 2011

    … But I cannot see… Poignant stuff. I particularly love the upside down boat effect of the rafters in the 3rd church shot. It struck me that there is a mourning of time here… What with children and demolition and attrition, everything is constantly in motion, so I’m glad you keep finding the beauty in the drive-by shooting! Kaiteur is such a good metaphor for this post; always changing but keeping itself itself. Fabulous shot.

  6. Kojo says: July 26, 2011

    Powerful images, moreso than usual.

  7. Nadeena S. says: July 28, 2011

    Thank you for this. As someone who left Guyana at an early age, I still hold the country close to my heart.  I don’t want to one day walk down the streets and not recognize any building. I understand change is a normal part of life, and that to move forward as a country and progress major changes need to happen, but I just wish there was a way to do this and lose the things that are a part of our history. 

    More than just your photography, your website always offers me a doorway, if only temporary, into the country that will always have a place in my heart regardless of where I am in the world. 

  8. Wallace says: August 9, 2011

    Great post and a struggle I think many photographers have.  Photography can and should be more than the result. 


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