Behind the Lens: Why I do what I do

I want to leave behind a world that has cool stories. I want to tell stories about my family, about how hope and love defeat bigotry. This is why I do what I do. (Photo provided by writer)

What’s the most important thing in the world for you? I’m not talking about an object. Those kinds of things are easy-ish to pick out and don’t take a lot of planning. No, I’m talking about an idea. Let me give you an example.

Last week, while scrolling through Facebook, I watched a video from that page “Great Big Story.” They always have some kind of cool feature on someone telling their story. Pretty straightforward idea. I skimmed by one video maybe 20 times. It was titled “The Artist Keeping Neon Aglow in the Heart of Texas.” Kirk Tunningley has kept making neon signs because he doesn’t want the culture to die. The video is great and you should definitely watch it.  

For Tunningley, it seems the most important thing in the world is the culture and legacy of neon signs. That’s what I mean by an idea. Culture and legacy is not something tangible; you can’t pick it up in your hands.

A lot of people don’t know what the most important thing in the world is to them, especially this early on in their life. I didn’t really figure it out until my junior year, and I didn’t fully think about it until last week. I’ve mentioned this in so many columns, but I came to UConn as an actuarial science major and then later transitioned into math-stats. But I also joined the Daily Campus, and that eventually led me to photojournalism.

If you asked me at that time about my most important thing in the world, I would have said my camera. For me, the idea that the most important thing in the world could be a concept made zero sense. My camera was what allowed me to get access to all of these cool events and take cool photos.

But my camera wasn’t what got me to cover those events. My camera was only the tool that got me in to them. Watching Tunningley, I figured out what my “most important thing” is. The thing that allowed me to use my camera to push my way into places was my desire to tell cool stories. So, almost 400 words later, I can say that the most important thing in the world for me is to tell cool stories in any way possible.

The real question, though, is what is the point of this column? Why would I waste your time to ask you about something that I could have just explained in a sentence?

For the majority of people, the most important thing is the idea of family. Having a group of people you love and who love you is something that all people need. But most people don’t really know that right away. Macklemore sums up exactly when that appears for many people in the song “Excavate” when he sings that the greatest part of his legacy is his daughter. It’s the only part that matters. And there’s that word again: “legacy.” Because really, for everyone, the most important thing in the world is what we leave behind.  

I want to leave behind a world that has cool stories. I want to tell stories about my family, about how hope and love defeat bigotry. This is why I do what I do. This is why I’m writing this column and why I run around with a camera.

So to end, I ask again: “What is the most important thing in the world?”


Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email amar.batra@uconn.edu. He tweets at @amar_batra19.