They used to freeze our cherished moments, but today photographers at tourist spots are an endangered species, finds Mohd Asim Khan
We have to chase our customers, persuade them to get a picture clicked, and haggle with them over the money, and for all this we have only two minutesYou must have seen your mother gazing fondly at a snap taken many years back, in which she stood beside your father, coy and beautiful, with that eternal symbol of love called the Taj Mahal in the background. But did it ever occur to you who had taken that photograph that froze the moment of sheer affection to give smiles to thousands of moments to come? The artist behind the camera remains as anonymous as the thousands of artisans whose toil gave birth to the marble wonder.
There was once a time when if you visited a tourist spot in the Capital you would be thronged by a battery of photographers who would coax you to get a few photographs clicked there. Though you will still find them at a few tourist spots in Delhi, they are a shrinking tribe thanks to the reduced size and price of the cameras. At the tourist spots, in parties and functions, in the markets, on the roads, people can be seen flaunting their mobile camera-enabled mobile phones at the slightest hint of a picture and trying their hand at photography. Others carry small digital cameras which are no longer expensive, especially while visiting tourist spots.
Declining over years
But this has made the going tough for hundreds of people who lived off photography at the tourist spots. “I have been in this profession for about 10 years. The number of customers has been declining over the years. And during the last two-three years it has come down really fast,” says Sanjay, a photographer at India Gate. “We sell the snaps at Rs.40 to 50 per copy and give it to the customers in just 10 minutes,” he adds. All it needs to be in this business is a digital camera and a colour printer which is usually kept under a tree away from the eyes of the ‘customers’.
These photographers have a small world of their own that is run by their own rules. “We mostly target South Indians, who are simple by nature, and Africans who usually don’t carry their own cameras. We have to chase our customers, persuade them to get a picture clicked, and haggle with them over the money, and for all this we have only two minutes,” says Ali Ansari, a Fine Arts undergraduate who works part-time at India Gate as a photographer. However, some people like Sanjay are full time in this business and make enough money even in the days of digital cameras. “Four-five men work for Sanjay on commission basis. All the cameras and printer, etc. belong to him,” reveals Amit, a new entrant in the profession.
But sometimes the commission the men get from the owner is not enough to make ends meet. “I earn about Rs.300 a day and for it I have to cheat the master. Usko bhi topi pehnani padti hai. I sell photographs at Rs.100 but tell him that I sold it for Rs.50,” says Ali unabashedly and with a cranky smile. “But all of them do it,” he adds.
However, life is not easy for these people. “We have to work here from morning till late evening, be it chilly winter or scorching summer,” says Raju, a photographer who works at Red Fort, mopping his brow. “And lately the number of customers has also declined. People carry their own cameras now,” he adds. No wonder that at a majority of tourist spots in the Capital these photographers are no longer found.