Why Are We All So Enamored With Photography?

Why are we all so enamored with photography?
Day-dreaming Chimpanzee / Stir-fried Tang Hoon

Photography is for children. There. I said it. I’m not arguing with people who have written books about photography as an art, as a means of telling a story, or even as a method of enhancing a commercial message. But there’s something more fundamental that lies beneath all that.

I believe everyone possesses some degree of creativity. As children we’ve all tried to express it – from drawing in the sand with a stick, to making something out of mud, to doing a silly dance. It’s human nature to want to express our creativity.

When photography was invented, it became the one medium that enabled all of us to express our creativity – regardless of whether if we could draw, sing, or dance. Today, digital cameras and smartphones have put that means of expressing creativity in the hands of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The advent of digital cameras, and particularly smartphones – suddenly enabled all of us to become photographers – hence the millions of photos being constantly uploaded to the internet. And regardless of whether we take photos of our lunch with our smartphone, or photos of wildlife with our DSLR, we’re all constantly experimenting with ways of creating a better photo – one that will make all our friends say, “wow, that’s an awesome photo”!

While myriad articles have explained how digital photography has enabled us to capture memories more easily, or enhance our communications – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc – there’s no denying the fact that basically, we’re all taking photos as a means to express our creativity (some of us more successfully than others).

Jellyfish on purple
Jellyfish against purple-tinted water

The interesting thing that isn’t discussed as much is the other side of photography – the viewers of all these photos. Why are people looking at our photos? While most of us would understand why everyone would look at the photo you took of a tiger charging directly at you while on a safari, why do people spend time to view the blurry photos we take at a concert, or the photo we take of our desert?

The answer can again be found in our childhood – curiosity. As children, we were openly curious about everything around us. Refreshingly (I think), as adults we’re still curious about our world. We’re interested in what others are doing, and specifically, in what they are seeing. The combination of digital photography and the internet has tapped into our innate curiosity by feeding us massive amounts of photos to view everyday.

I guess we’re all still children – wanting to express our creativity, and curious about the world around us. I don’t know about you, but I think those two facts are reason enough to continue taking photos – and viewing them. What could possibly be wrong with continuing our desire to express our creativity – and with staying curious about the world?

Sample photos of a tree & skateboarder
Trees lit-up at night, skateboarder with umbrella

Most of all, we enjoy taking a photo, editing it, and seeing people’s reactions to it. We also get pleasure viewing a photo, thinking how we would have taken it a bit differently, and imagining ourselves being there. So maybe I’m wrong about there being two basic reasons why everyone is enamored with photography. Maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe there’s only one reason – because it’s fun. (And all kids like to have fun!)

The First Indonesian Photographer

Kassian Cephas
Kassian Cephas

Outside of a small circle of historians interested in Indonesian culture, Kassian Cephas is scarcely known. A court photographer for Java’s Yogyakarta Sultanate in Java during the late 19th century, Kassian Cephas was Indonesia’s first professional photographer.


Born in 1845 during Dutch colonial rule, Cephas was trained by a Dutchman at the request of Sultan Hamengkubuwana VI. (According to oral tradition, his father was Dutch and his mother Indonesian). By the early 1870’s, Cephas was appointed as court painter and photographer. His responsibilities were to take portraits of the royal family.

Borobudur temple panels
Borobudur temple panels

Recognizing his skills, the Dutch Archaeological Union commissioned Cephas to photograph Indonesia’s iconic buildings and ancient monuments for posterity.


After the hidden base of the Borobudur temple complex was discovered in 1885, Cephas was requested to record the hidden panels with his camera. To expedite the documentation, the base was briefly uncovered in 1890, and then covered again in 1891.


In recognition of his photographic contribution to archeology, Cephas was appointed as an “extraordinary member” of the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences following the completion of the Borobudur project. Subsequently, he was also made a member of the Royal Institute in recognition of his work with for the Dutch Archaeological Union.


Along with his architectural photography, Cephas continued working as a court photographer. In 1896 he photographed a visit to Yogyakarta by Thailand’s King Chulalongkorm. Later, in 1899 he documented the four-year commemoration of the accession of Hamengkunegars III to the throne as Crown Prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate.


Cephas retired when he reached 60 years of age, and passed away seven years later in 1912 due to illness.


Although he was an accomplished court photographer and architectural photographer, Cephas is mainly celebrated in Indonesia today as the first Indonesian to become a professional photographer.


Mumbai Offers Several Unique Photo Opportunities

Mumbai commuters
Black & white photo of Mumbai commuters (Photo by Rajarshi MITRA / CC-BY)

There’s a wealth of places you’ll want to take photos in Mumbai. Selecting which to visit can be a challenge for the traveler with only a little bit of free time. Here’s a couple of the most popular.

Gateway of India
Gateway of India, Mumbai (Photo by Jorge Láscar / CC-BY)

Although considered cliché by frequent visitors, the Gateway of India shouldn’t be missed by anyone new to the city. Visit early in the morning to get a shot of the monument without hoards of tourists around it.

Marine Drive, Mumbai
Marine Drive, Mumbai, at night (Photo by Madhav Pai / CC-BY)

Marine Drive, is best place to get a photo of the Mumbai skyline across a stretch of sea. Visit in the evening, and you’ll immediately understand why this area is also referred to as the Queen’s Necklace. Perhaps the most popular hangout in Mumbai, you’ll also find lots of couple and families hanging out here.

Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai
Laundry hung out in Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat (Photo by Jon Connell / CC-BY)

The Dhobi Ghat is Mumbai’s infamous and huge outdoor laundry. Everyday, around 200 dhobis (washermen) wash thousands of garments that are then hung for drying on long lines throughout the area. This is a great place to get some memorable photos.

Plucked Duo
Flowers for sale at Dadar Phool Market, Mumbai (Photo by Meena Kadri / CC-BY)

If color and flowers attract you, Dadar Phool Market is the place to go. This flower market is located in a small gully lined with flower stalls. The shop owners are used to photographers, but arrive early in the morning for the best shots of this bustling market.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, at night (Photo by bWlrZQ== / CC-BY)

CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) station, is one of Mumbai’s iconic landmarks. Opened in 1887 to commemorate the Queen Victoria’s 50th birthday, the CST was originally named ‘Victoria Terminus’. If you’re looking to shoot chaos, bustling crowds, and lots of stalls, all against the background of incredible colonial architecture, a visit to CST is a must.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Chen Man – A Contemporary Chinese Photographer Who is Truly Inspired

Woman on bicycle in China
Fashion shot – woman on bicycle in China (shot by Chinese photographer Chen Man)

One of China’s top fashion photographers, Chen Man was born in 1980 in Beijing. After attending a high school specializing in art, she studied graphic design in Beijing at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where she graduated in 2005. Prior to graduating, the foundation of Chen Man’s photographic career had already begun to be laid with the 2003 launch of a series of covers she produced for Vision, a Shanghai-based fashion magazine.

Chen Man photos
Self-Portrait & Boombox Model photos by Chinese photographer Chen Man

Between 2003 and 2007, the cover photos that Chen Man created for Vision were received in China as ground-breaking, and even avante garde. Her method of highly-stylized, over-the-top, manipulated images had never been seen before in Chinese magazines. But the nuances of glamour, energy, and freedom of imagination portrayed in her cover photos resonated with China’s emerging youth culture.

Photos by Chen Man
Fashion photos by Chinese photographer Chen Man

As the magazines reached the public, viewers were in awe of Chen Man’s skill in combining a strong aesthetic eye, photographic technique, and mastery of post-processing and 3D rendering. The fact that she was young was a pleasant surprise to Chen Man’s Chinese audience, and there was also an element of national pride that she was a Beijing native. This initial success launched Chen Man’s meteoric rise.

Chinese model in traditional costume, photo by Chen Man
Chinese model in traditional costume, photo by Chen Man

Since gaining recognition for her work for Vision, Chen Man has shot covers for every major Chinese magazine, and has also became a regular contributor to the Chinese editions of Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire. She has also shot for ID, The Times, Wallpaper, Muse, Guess, Adidas, Motorola, Gucci, etc. Additionally, her work has been exhibited in many major galleries and museums.

Fashion shot of Chinese model in veil by Chen Man
Fashion shot of Chinese model in veil by Chen Man

Chen Man’s has created her own style of photography based on a combination of her skill with a camera, and her expertise with a computer.

Fashion photo of two Chinese mdels by Chen Man
Fashion photo of two Chinese mdels by Chen Man

According to Chen Man herself, “My work is complex and it matches the faces of our era; it’s Eastern and Western; it’s neither mainstream nor anti-mainstream; it’s the past, the present, and the future; it’s tacky and elegant. This is all achieved through a combination of ‘hardware’ from ancient Chinese culture and ‘software’ from modern Western culture.”

Fashionable Chinese woman in red dress. photo by Chinese photographer Chen Man
Fashionable Chinese woman in red dress. photo by Chinese photographer Chen Man