An article in the San Francisco Chronicle last year mentioned something about parts of India being in the 19th rather than 21st century (with regards to the whole tabloid revolution), and I always felt a little iffy about that statement until last week, when I came across this:
It’s a pin hole camera folks! And I bumped into it when I was leaving a market in Dehra Dun (a small ex-hill station 5.5 hours away from Delhi). Apparently there used to be an old man who would work this contraption, I didn’t see him around, instead there moped a snazzy man who presumably looked like his grandson. This camera has been in the same spot for years and people still seat themselves in front of it for a passport size photo.
It was sweltering , as Dehra Dun was experiencing one of its first extreme heat waves in history. This camera, bound by black electric tape seemed like one sturdy , relentless being. It withstands the dust of the street side, the jolts of passengers who offload from buses, autorickshaws or ‘Vikrams’. The photos pasted on the side of the camera (like an imitation of those instant photo booths in asia) are sort of curious, as they seem to be from the 70’s if I’m not mistaken.
Like I said the heat was stifling and I needed to get a few shots with my new found love (the camera not the dude), so I very skillfully convinced a casual passerby to get a photo taken. I had to do the typical, wrinkling of the nose, wincing of the eye, reasoning how cheap it was anyway- all of no use, because seeing me with my own camera he thought I was working for a paper and jumped to the opportunity. I love how he’s posing, with that naive, serious, still stare. Chances are that he props himself up that way for any other photograph as well.
And there’s the ‘One Second Moment’ where the photographer undresses the lens-cap for a slight moment, to expose the soft film to the light, capturing the negative reflection of the image.
After that he mixes the (…err….well when I asked him he mumbled something that sounded like) ‘SigohoubulNatrayt’ into a bottle (very interesting looking liquid) and pours it into a dish that sits under the camera.
There sits my beloved in its unabashed openness….with the film inside the tub. After the man pours the liquid into the other compartment under the tub, he puts his arms through thick purple sleeves attached to the rear of the camera (the lewd being that he is) and fiddles around, washing the film with the fluid.
What he also does is that he passes the film through a sort of trap door under the tub, and pulls out a drawer with the negative image in its almost-final stage of development. He then rubs the film, airs it a little and then places it in front of the camera upside down to take the shot of the negative, hence for the final black and white ‘positive’ copy.
Like so. And then this big bellied man in a tight tee shirt , who was driving us, told me to hurry up because he had to get the car fixed. Yeah, that pretty much ended my high. Nevertheless, it was one hell of an experience, and I’m so glad I got to stand in close proximity to this classic. I doubt this would be allowed to stand in such an accessible manner any where else in the world! I also doubt that my description of how the camera works is accurate.
But hey look, I can avoid ranting in posts at times! Ay?