Worth a thousand words?

I’ve picked up a lot of new terms here in India: biodata, visiting card, “good name” (meaning first name), etc…..but if there’s one term that I still can’t get over it’s “felicitation,” which in my mind has come to mean “the arbitrary exchange of mementos and shawls at a highly structured ceremony on stage.” At these felicitation ceremonies, prominent people usually distribute awards to other people, or the graduates of a college are recognized for their hard work, etc. They are ceremonies held to honor people, but in the process, the dignitaries who are bestowing the award on someone else, are also honored for taking time out of their busy schedules to partake in the event.

But the thing I’ve noticed is that these felicitation ceremonies have influenced the concept of photojournalism employed by the papers (I’m speaking only of newspaper photographers). In the U.S., we’re told to avoid “grip-and-grin” photos. Here, I’ve noticed that’s the bread and butter of a photographer’s work. They are what I consider “flat” photos though, becuase they do not add any dimension to the story or extra information if it’s a news item.

Indians have a knack for writing, expressing, storytelling, reporting…..their English vocabulary is unparalled because they have been taught by the British. But when it comes to telling a story through photos or capturing an event on camera, all the photographers uniformly horde in front of the dais for the handshakes and shawl exchanges. I feel like they aren’t doing justice to the SLR cameras they hold in their hands.

I know they are sent out on assignment and the “felicitation” part of the ceremony is pretty much the guts of the event, but there are still interesting ways these moments can be captured… Otherwise, perhaps these are news items which could run without a photo.

A photo may be worth a thousand words, but for now, Indian newspapers seem to be capturing only one: “felicitation.”

1 comment on “Worth a thousand words?

  1. This column was so funny that I kept laughing at some of your observations. I agree with you about the felicitating functions.


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