Reading Stepping into the world of photography – foolhardy or courageous? by
TM-Dalo-feature
By Salil | Issue No.2 Journeys | |

Stepping into the world of photography – foolhardy or courageous?

Pantaleão Fernandes

As a toddler I was so fascinated with photography that the camera even smelt good!

A cousin from Canada would regularly visit my family in Goa with a lovely SLR camera. He noticed my keen interest in his camera, and let me hold it in my unsteady hands. Through this viewfinder I caught my first intense glimpse of the magical world of photography. I was hooked!

 My first camera

As a young man, I decided to enrol in the Polytechnic School. As soon as I possibly could, I bought my first photography book, saving bit by bit the required price from writing ‘middles’ for The Navhind Times. Many more middles later, I bought my first camera, a Hot Shot 110. Though a simple point-and-shoot, it came bundled with a telephoto lens and variable settings, useful tools for experimenting. However after a few shots, I was told that photography was not meant for me: what I was doing was to cut my subjects into halves! But instead of quitting, I began to experiment, and one day I realised that the camera had turned into a powerful tool in my hands. On the technical tour of the final year of the Civil Engineering course, I spent all my money on film and shot around four rolls. The pictures were such a hit that my entire album was stolen!

TM-Dalo-web“Wow, what camera did you use?”

Though I had initially procured a used manual SLR, the strenuous work I was involved in as a construction professional deprived me of my creative pursuits of writing and photography. When I got married ten years later, and we went on holiday on our honeymoon, I rediscovered my passion to work with the camera. Usually, cameras come with a built-in light meter that helps one expose correctly. This meter did not function as the tiny battery that powered it was dead. Totally ignorant of this built-in meter, I was forced to work out the exposures for every frame, based on the position of the sun. Around six rolls later, manual settings were embedded into my system of thought and work. When the films were exposed, those who caught sight of the photographs invariably exclaimed, “Wow, what camera did you use?” Everybody complimented the camera, but the truth is that I had discovered my true talent with the camera.

In 2003, I purchased a used digital camera with six mega pixels for a whopping thirty thousand rupees. It was not even an SLR but it had a decent zoom and excellent glass lens. Not having to invest in films transformed me into a shutter-happy being. I began travelling and exploring different villages and gained enormous pleasure from the results.

TM-Colvale-river-webIllustrating books

By now Jose Lourenço had conceptualised his book, Parish Churches of Goa for which he needed to photograph the façade of every church in Goa. He offered me the opportunity which I grabbed with both hands, and thus began our journey to hidden nooks and crannies of Goa. We visited villages whose names I had never even heard and found opportunities to photograph. When the book was released it received a tremendously positive response. Very sharp and clear photographs made people compliment me on a job well done. I have to admit, though, that most of the credit now had to go to the camera and not me. I just mounted the camera on a tripod, used a timer and voila! A crisp shot was inevitable!

The camera creates a bond with Goa

Having experienced the hinterland villages of Goa first-hand, I had established a close bond with Goa that was new to me. At the slightest opportunity, I took off with my camera to distant villages, to chill out from my construction blues. Collecting hundreds of photographs on Goa, I sorted them in different folders according to categories like nature, heritage, temples, churches, museums and the like. The collection almost magically appeared within my mind as a book. The more I thought of it, the more the idea crystallised. As I could not afford a designer, I was forced to learn photo-editing and acquired book-designing software; that’s how in 2007, my first book, 100 Goan Experiences was saw the light of day.

With so much colour, and information on places rarely visited, the book became an instant hit and went on to sell more than thirteen thousand copies. This book not only served tourists well, but locals too, to plan their weekend excursions. Additionally it was a ready handbook for feature writers as each one of the 100 experiences could be expanded into a full newspaper feature. In fact, using an experience from the book I wrote my first feature article. So in a sense it was my camera that metamorphosed me  into a journalist.

 

Cover of 100 Goan Experiences.

Cover of 100 Goan Experiences.

From a career in construction to a love-affair with photography

The tremendous satisfaction derived from producing the book, coupled with all the time I dedicated to it, led me to neglect my construction career and though I completed all my jobs, I was averse to finding such new jobs. So eventually, much to the chagrin of people like my mother, I completely quit the field of construction and devoted my time to writing regular columns in news papers and magazines. Though my income shrank in a frightening manner, the sale from the book kept me going.

In 2008, I upgraded to a digital SLR and again accumulated a large collection of photographs. This time the collection gave birth to a coffee table photo-book on Goa. This book too, was largely appreciated and I was now being seen as an artist due to the aesthetic quality of the photographs in the book. Dr. Maria Aurora Couto who wrote the foreword to the book said, “Pantaleão, you have tremendous courage to come up with a book like this.” But my mother said, “You are a real fool to quit Engineering and publish books.” While I was grappling with this dilemma, to discern whether I was  lion hearted or a  total fool, the material I had collected for a column on the traditional occupations of Goa germinated into a seed for yet another book. The book is now completed and is awaiting printing.

TM-Goa-Remembered-web

I still don’t have a clear answer: was my journey a foolhardy adventure or a courageous move into a beckoning world? Whatever it might be, it has been immensely satisfying to be able to freely indulge in my passion to my heart’s content!

 

Pantaleão Fernandes is a civil engineer by training. His books give voice to his love of his land, Goa.

0 comments so far — Join the discussion
Issue No.2 Journeys

journeys-cover

Editorial: Journeys

“Everything is a journey,” was a reaction to my choice of the theme ‘Journeys’ for this issue of Tambdi Mati. Inevitably so, since life is a moving-on. And since Joseph Campbell reminds us of the Hero’s Journey, we may for a moment believe, immodestly, that we are in congenial company. People in Goa are used [...]

Quest for my lost Ithacas

Not all those who wander are lost. ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring During my childhood days in paradisiacal Goa, I had no toys to play with, nor were there any children’s books to quench my thirst for stories, but there were imaginary journeys while walking from Carona to the Portuguese primary school [...]

The child is father of the man

Papa, what’s the shape of a journey? Shape? Yes, is a journey straight? Yes, it could be. Like a line. But a journey starts at one place and ends at another, right? Yes, son. In Maths class they told us a line has no beginning and no end. It extends infinitely in both directions. Alright, [...]

The dogs catch their first sight of the sea.

Wagging tales, memorable journeys

Man's best friend also makes for an interesting travel companion ... just don't forget the leashes!

Face-to-face after 38 years

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” That was A.A. Milne writing in one of his Winnie-the-Pooh books in the late 1920s. Well, after almost four decades of exchanging hundreds of letters and scores of greeting cards via airmail and then with [...]

Journeys in my life

A life’s journey through scientific research, academia, poetry and art.

Image6-TM-The-moon-and-the-tides-web

Wetting new sands

The journey to being an 'ocean artist.'

Burning bridges … a simple task?

Guns, bibles and gold

I knew nothing about American Indians except the little I had gauged from watching John Wayne Westerns and Disney’s Pocahontas, where the American Indian is portrayed as a villain or as a vessel of some spiritual charm.

Map us a market!

The Mario Miranda Chair Visiting Research Professor at Goa University turns his incredible eye on the Mapusa Market.

No choice but this

A road accident crashes into the world of a family -- a play in three Acts.

TM-Dalo-feature

Stepping into the world of photography – foolhardy or courageous?

As a toddler I was so fascinated with photography that the camera even smelt good! A cousin from Canada would regularly visit my family in Goa with a lovely SLR camera. He noticed my keen interest in his camera, and let me hold it in my unsteady hands. Through this viewfinder I caught my first [...]

Travel to Chimbel with books

As a young reader, I took many journeys with books. The journeys were both with books as luggage in the physical sense and book ideas within my head, an internal luggage so to speak. I carried books to the bottom of the garden where we had seats under a mango tree; I journeyed to the [...]

In science-fiction mode

The youngest science-fiction writer in India talks about his flights of fancy.

The chosen race

Bernadette Gomes, Willy Goes, Daegal Godinho at work and play.

Fiction

The curator of cans

Lobster pâté. It was only a small tin. But that was the first thing Vit took from the grocery store. It wasn’t really stealing...

Poetry

Passion

Waiting for daybreak

I take a train into my brain

Ecology

Flowers of Firmiana Colorata

Sterculia — the vendor of saris

A spectacular weaving of finery.

Tree Memories

I collect so many seeds for my stories, and they are somewhere in the subconscious, but when the cuckoo gives a call I get inspired to write.

15°34'36.42"N  073°51'42.84"E

GPS Trees

Pinpointing trees in Goa - a continuing photo essay.

Art

TM-Christ2-web

Earth and heaven in conversation

A look at the life and times of artist-scholar, Dr. Jose Pereira.

Interview

Of melodies and journeys

In conversation with singers who see themselves as ‘PortuGoesas’.

Books

Mirrored reflections

Filomena’s journeys

Excerpts from the recently released book.

Photoessay

16

An inappropriate suitcase enters the garden of eden

Traveling to the largest river island doesn't require the largest suitcase, Vivek discovers.