Sheila Kumar writes about the making of a photo essay about friends

Before you start Googling for a Bergman or Fellini film that bears the title of Falling, let me hasten to clarify: Falling is the name of a photo essay that I recently put out on social media.

Falling is a personal ode to long-time friendship; mine own long-time friendships, and the cut-off date I set for inclusion was a friendship of at least two decades, nothing less.

Actually it was a post on the Why Are They Still My Friends blog that set this personal history project off. The post that caught my eye and held my attention was one where a thirty-year friendship between a set of women is documented through photographs. Indeed, a charming idea and, what’s more, a doable one.

Thus was Falling born. At this point, you are raising your left eyebrow and saying to yourself, why would anyone call an ode to friendship ‘Falling’? Well, the complete title is Falling…into friendship. I rest my case.

Falling was indeed a labour of love, in every sense of the term but there was no gainsaying the labour part. I parked myself down amidst my old photo albums for days and yet more days. Luckily for this project, I happen to be a photo-fanatic and have only recently foresworn off old-fashioned photo albums, of which I have a considerable collection.


The sorting of the snaps took the better part of a week. Then came the shortlisting, which was fairly easy given the two-decade bar. The few pauses-for-thought all involved rationale: did one bung in the snapshot of the friend of three decades who one had lost touch with? Did one include the two who were FB-phobes? Did one include a former dear friend of nearly three decades who is a friend no longer? Complex, metaphysical questions, indeed.


Part Three was the grunt work: taking all the colour photographs and converting them into b/w. At which point, the b/w format being a rather unforgiving one, I discovered that quite a few of the selected snaps were less than diamond-sharp. Alas, too late to do anything about that now, given that some of these aforementioned snaps dated back to the late Eighties and early Nineties!


The last segment of the project involved captions. Here too, one was treading a fine line. Too much info and you risk the reader/viewer rolling their eyes. One personal detail too many and you run the risk of the concerned friend sending you a Howler by post, or worse. At least three of my long-time good friends were no longer with us; the captions needed to be succinct, from the heart but by no means maudlin.

And then, I put the photo essay out there in cyberspace. Now I`m getting an avalanche of such warm responses that one thing is crystal-clear: friendship touches a chord deep in every human heart. Also, we are all suckers for a good friend story. And if it’s a long-time good friend story, that’s a bonanza! You know what’s happening: you are looking at my photographs and reliving your friendships in the process.

But you can`t please everybody. Yesterday, I met a friend who asked in all earnestness: “Why wasn’t X included? I thought the two of you were good friends from over twenty years?”

There was no answer to that one.

Link to the Falling post on Facebook: