Let Us Be The Magic

Someone dropped the A-bomb.

Moments after I posted a quote by Alberto Korda, a friend made a humbling comment, he said and I quote: “Your photographs are great, your camera must be that of the high-end ones.”

“Yes.” I said without hesitation, even when I noticed the absence of sarcasm in his question.

Before you judge him, or me, think for a minute about this overstated sentiment.

To them, it’s an honest remark, as much as it is an honest man saying: “it’s easy to act, everyone can play The Black Swan or The King’s Speech, and win the Oscar like Natalie Portman or Colin Firth.”

To most of us it’ll be like: “Yeah, right.”

It’s innocence on one end, pretence on another; both aren’t wrong and neither is right, they’re just there to make up the space for an argument.

Once upon a time, this story happened.

Moving in to a new neighborhood, a young couple decides to host a dinner party. The wife, who loves cooking and is good at it, decides to cook and surprise their neighbors. The dinner was a hit. Everybody loved the delicious dishes and the couple love their company, until a beautiful, young lady approached the host and had a little chat.

“It was such a delicious food! Do you mind telling me who’s the caterer?” asked the attractive young woman.

“Sure, me.” answered the lady host.


“Yes, really. I’ve always loved cooking, and I thought I could use some exercise at the kitchen.”

“You gotta show me your kitchen then, you must have some great stuffs in there, … I might have bought the wrong ones, cause my food never tastes so great.”

“What kind of knife do you use? What about the pan? The oven?”

… and the night goes on.

At the end of the evening, the two hosts were standing at the door, seeing the guests off when their teenage daughter joined them. Upon seeing that attractive lady, she made a candid remark.

“Oh my god, you look so pretty… What lipstick did you wear? Your skin, it’s so smooth, I must have bought the wrong soap!”

No, the story I heard wasn’t quiet like that, it was similar, albeit a little less dramatic, more harsh and less funny. I was laughing when I heard it but not so much after I gave it a little more thought.

How big of a ‘thing’ can make you a better ‘something’? Would you write better if you have used Hemmingway’s pen? Would you paint better if you have Da Vinci’s brush?

I doubt it.

But, would Harry Potter defeats Voldemort if he uses a different wand?

Tools are as useless as they are magical. Even a pen can kill in the hands of a killer, and a sword can mean a thousand poem with a rightful poet. But their impact is undoubted. There won’t be a poem without the sword, nor there would be a story without the pen.

You can say that Hemmingway can write as good, or Da Vinci can paint as beautiful with any other pen or brush, but the fact remains that they too, have their own magic wand that they keep at bay to let the juice flow. There’s always a little something that brings a subtle quality to them, allowing them to create, extending one’s vision from the realms of their mind to the empty space in front of them.

You could take a picture with any camera, have them published somewhere and make my jaw drop, maybe I could do that too, but I would not have felt it coming when I don’t have the vision. And more often than not, such vision comes when I’m natural. I’m natural when I’m confident, I’m natural when my hands are on the right grip. But I’m most natural and confident when I have my blinds pulled the moment I peek through the viewfinder; I hold my breath when I push the shutter button and hear the sound of that neverending click. I become the camera, and the camera becomes my fifth limb. It is joy, eternity and divine.

You could argue that I’m just being a dumb ass, and I could argue that you’re missing out, but my tools are my soul, we are inseparable.

Perhaps I could just jump off the ship and swim away? I once had to operate with someone’s gear during a photoshoot, It happened, and I did great with it. But was it as joyful? As timeless? As divine as my own? Ask a chef about his knives and you’ll know my answer.

This is not a right or wrong argument, people, heck it’s not even an argument. This is matter of personal taste, a choice. Tools do matter, albeit in a smallest, subtlest manner. But, and this is BIG but, when we make a leap out of our comfort zone, and the universe puts us in an extreme situation and we surrender to it: This is when we human beings thrive. See the magic unfolds, witness ourselves make something out of nothing, performing divinity in our own rights.

Some of my best work happened in a split second[1. Based on personal satisfaction.], using an ordinary tool at hand, exactly at those moments; time stopped and I could see what was coming, reality as I know it ceased to a halt during those split seconds, I was the captain, I was the ship, and I was the ocean at the same time.

Fire catches fire, excellence inspires excellence. Any tools crafted by humans were made out of countless choices, those carefully made decisions shape the tool as a finished product, giving each and everyone of them a character of some sort. Each of us see and relate to that differently, we will always know which one is for us when we see it; just like the choices the engineers made to produce the tool.

As long as the sun rises from the East, there will always be a Canon, a Nikon or a Leica. But a magic wand would not cast a spell of its own, neither would a camera take a picture without a photographer. There’s no perfect tool for everyone.

If a wand ever finds its way to its rightful owner, we shall see magic, but once we cross the tool barrier, and learn the art of a wandless spell, the wand becomes irrelevant, thus magic we become.


At the Shanghai Expo 2010