Portrait of a Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

 In Birds, Photography

This is not your typical beautiful bird but she is, nonetheless, beautiful to me. This is the critically endangered Rüppell’s griffon vulture, the world’s highest-flying bird. There are lesser than 22,000 mature individuals left in the world and the population is declining extremely rapidly.

It makes me wonder sometimes whether photography has the power to inspire change in the world.

There are more and more photos shared per day of any subjects you can find. There are no lack of nature images and yet species continue to decline and go extinct. Nature is degrading at a faster rate in recent years than ever before. You can’t help but wonder if all these images are lacking the power to connect with people, or maybe people aren’t just looking deep enough into an image because there are so much distractions.

It is said that the value of photography has dropped dramatically in recent years due to easy access of camera equipment. Everyone owns a camera today. In simple economics, when there is excess supply, the demand inevitably drops. I can’t help but feel that photography has become something superficial. The reason being that the focus has become mostly about the tools and the techniques. People treat it more like a hobby than anything else. Social media, an insatiable image hording machine, has also turn photography into a popularity contest.

Is there any story, message or meaning left in an individual still frame?

At times I felt drained, burnt-out because I am trying so hard to convey a message with the still frame. Is it still effective? The little consolation I have is that there are people who tells me that I inspires them. It gives me hope that one might find meaning in my work. It makes me yearn for conversations that are beyond words. An image has the power to speak to the heart and soul, if only one is willing to see and not just look.

My message has always been simple: know yourself, be present and life will unveil its beauty to you. It has always been so but we are so fixated with things and thoughts that we miss all that is precious. This “missing” is the cause of all the problems in the world. Everything is dying because we reduce them to things and fleeting ideas in the mind. It takes consciousness to be aware, to be able to see the truth of the beautiful world we are living in.

Every image I create is my attempt to convey this message. Behind the scenes, I struggle a lot. None of the content comes easy, but it is worth it if you can just see. It is hard in a world where attention is scarce and patience are limited. Most people are too distracted to sit with an image, much less spending time to understand it. In a time where people are expecting to be fed, it is funny that we should use words and marketing to explain our art. I thought a picture should speak a thousand words…

This has always been a challenge to creatives. To create something that captures the precious first few seconds of someone’s attention and hopefully they care about what you are going to say.

On the other hand, if we take away the component of the audience, is photography meaningless then? Can we create art for art sake, even when nobody cares? Can we say something even when there is no one listening?

I do hope that the craft of image making can make a positive difference in the way things turn out, even if it is just a feeble effort in trying to restore balance back in the world.

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