Other States

A maharaja among cameras

A tourist taking a picture of Tikam Chand’s antique, German-made cameraon Tuesday — World Photography Day. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

A tourist taking a picture of Tikam Chand’s antique, German-made cameraon Tuesday — World Photography Day. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras  

“Come sir, old camera,” Tikam Chand calls to tourists on Hawa Mahal Road here showing his prized possession.

It has been his practice for years, continuing the vocation of his father and grandfather, Pahari Lal. Unlike Mr. Chand, the two elders were never short of customers because every visitor to Jaipur wanted to be clicked in front of Hawa Mahal, exactly where they placed their now-antique German-make camera, which can be used only in daylight after the photographer covered his head and the camera with a dark cloth.

“The youngsters are amused, but feel nothing for it. Those who have seen the era of traditional cameras want to get clicked just for experience, particularly foreigners and those from metropolitan cities,” Mr. Chand told The Hindu on Tuesday, World Photography Day.

The camera, perhaps one of the few remaining of the model in the world now, was gifted to Pahari Lal by the Maharaja of Jaipur. Pahari Lal was passionate about photography as was his son, though neither had any formal training. “I was not too keen on making photography my profession, but developed interest in it seeing my father,” Mr. Chand says. He has been using the camera since 1977 — experts suggest that such models were manufactured in the 1860s.

This camera is a piece of heritage now. “It has seen the world change. Earlier, people used to line up on festivals such as Holi, Rakshabandhan, Eid and Diwali to get photographed and even ask for specific backgrounds. The life of a black-and-white print was 60-70 years. Now, with the digital age, everything has changed. Mobile phones have made the life of photographs even shorter,” Mr. Chand says.

The camera is everything rolled into one. The darkroom, fixer, developer and film box is all inside the 20-kg apparatus. Spare parts and chemicals have to be brought from France. Mr. Chand now repairs the camera himself if anything goes wrong. “I know everything about it now,” he says.

One documentary has been made on this camera. The Hindi films Shudh Desi Romance, Bhool Bhulaiyan, Sherkhan and Ek Tha Tiger have shots of this camera.

Mr. Chand’s two sons do not want to take up photography as a profession. “I want them to preserve this camera even if as a showpiece in the drawing room,” he says.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 3:14:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/a-maharaja-among-cameras/article6332534.ece

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