Completely untrained, a woman in Salem who has lost her husband at at age of 40, slipped seamlessly into her photographer spouse’s business, propelled by the need to keep the home running. Today, 13 years later, not only has she found her groove, but she’s also one of the popular photographers in the city.
V. Sathyabama, a native of Sholavandan in Madurai district, was married to a photographer B. Vijayakumar, of Nachinampatti in Salem district, in 1989. After their marriage, within ten years, her husband suffered from various health issues, and for some days he was unable to take care of his photo studio.
One day in 2003, Vijayakumar, who had committed to take pictures for a function, was unable to attend because he was ill. Sathyabama decided to not let that income go past and decided to take photos at the event.
“I truly did not know how to take photos properly. But then using my husband’s film camera, I took pictures, came back home and showed the negatives to my husband. He said 10 photos were shaken and asked me to visit a photo lab at New Bus Stand to develop the photos. There, I saw the photographers taking photos. The next day after this incident, Deevattipatti police came to our studio and asked my husband to accompany them for a job. “As he was unwell, I went instead with them to take photos of a body in a farm well,” Ms. Sathyabama explained.
After that, regularly, I went to take photos for the police, and most of the photos were of victims of accidents or suicides. In 2009, my husband died, and I had to take care of the photo studio all by myself. Within a few days, my son Mani, who had completed a catering course, got an opportunity to take up a job in Singapore. But I asked him to stay with me to help me run the studio. I have completed only up to Class X. So I struggled to operate computers or absorb new technologies in photography. My son learnt it and taught me how to operate the computer to edit photographs and print them.
“Until 2017, I used to take photos for the police. I also appeared as a witness in many cases in Salem Court and in High Court. I cannot say it was easy, especially in the beginning. At first, I faced humiliation in public, men mostly used to laugh at me while I was taking photos at functions. However, I learnt not to pay them any heed. Soon, people respected me and I was also commissioned to take photos for political parties in our “ says Sathyabhama, happiness suffusing her face, as well as contentment, as she has learnt to lower her pace, giving herself time to spend with her grandchild, after literally living in the photo studio so many years.