Charminar is THE selfie spot in Hyderabad, with no dearth of selfie-takers and those striking a pose with the monument in the background. It is always fun to see visitors trying to get the perfect shot, directing each other on angles, unmindful of photo bombers (it is, after all, a crowded tourist place). Often, when groups of visitors struggle for the right frame or selfie-takers are seen reviewing their photos on phones with dissatisfied expressions, Dinesh Gajelwar, Gajanand Kondiba Jagadale, Ahmed Moin and Mohammed Wajid step in to offer: “Shall I help you take the photo on your phone?” Are they just good samaritans? No. They are photographers from Sajan Photo Studio near Nimrah Cafe. The studio provides photo prints to those who seek photos in front of the Charminar.
All photos by the team at Sajan Photo Studio are taken at the Shah Ali Banda-facing Charminar front. As Dinesh gets to taking photos on an iPhone 13, he instructs the phone’s owner for a slight head tilt to the right, ‘shoulders back and turn your hips a little.’ He requests the person to hold the pose until he sees the frame is clear of photo bombers. Next, he suggests: “Now, a walking pose.” Once done, the ‘customers’ review the photos on their respective phones and pay them whatever they wish. “If they ask us how much we charge to take photos on their phone, we tell them ₹10 per click,” says Dinesh.
Mohammed Mateen who now runs Sajan Photo Studio says, “Our main customers are tourists. They love to carry printed photos with them. The locals don’t care for photo prints. ” Dinesh adds that tourists who request photos on their mobiles are those who are not interested in prints of photos taken with the studio camera.
Bindu Tomar, a customer at the shop waiting to take a print of a photo, explains, “It is more like sweet memories. On the phone, photos can get deleted by accident. I brought my in-laws from Rajasthan to see the Charminar. They will have a photo with the Charminar to show family and friends once they go back to the village. I took two prints, one for me and one for them.”
Drawing inspiration from photographers of Sajan Photo Studio are fruit and street jewellery vendors near Mecca Majid. Wajid S, a handkerchief seller says “Visitors are fascinated by the Charminar and readily gives their phones for photos. Some customers pay well on their own, some buys handkerchiefs. Money or no money, even a compliment like ‘accha photo hai’ also makes me happy.”
As we sit discussing paper quality (the studio uses digital plus paper to print photos), types of phones and the trust with which visitors hand over their phones to the studio photographers, a group comes in for photos to be taken. Gajanand takes the camera and jumps into action. Mateen says, “When customers come to us for photos on their phones, they know they can trust us. This studio is more than 30 years old and we are still here because of our honesty. Most of the boys have been working with us for more than 15 years.”
Gajananad says that he learnt everything about photography at Sajan and completed 15 years in the studio. “I started working in the studio as an errand boy and then my boss asked me to learn photography; he made me a photographer.”
Who, according to Dinesh and Gajanand, is fussier about their photos on cell phones after it is taken – men or women? Dinesh says “Men are more adventurous with poses. They see new angles on Facebook and Instagram and ask us to click the same way. Women like straightforward photos with “full” Charminar in the background. During the holiday season or during Ramzan, a lot of people come to see the Charminar during the day and get pictures on their phone.”
Did they have to learn to take pictures on different camera phones or camera apps? “Not really, because all cell phone cameras work the same way. When anyone wants a specific shot, they show us how it is to be done. What they do before posting on Facebook or Instagram is all in the filters or the way the person chooses to edit it,” explains Moin.
How many pictures do they take on cell phones? Gajanand replies: “At least 15 on a lean day. On tourist-heavy days, the number goes up to 25. “
Why do they think visitors ask them to click their photos on their respective phones in an era of selfies and selfie sticks? Md Mateen says, “Selfie is not a photo that you want to print and keep. No matter how much of an expert one is, the angle is never good. When a selfie of a group is taken only the others in the group look okay. Only the face of the person who clicks the selfie is visible and the angle is never good.”