The Pink city is famous for many reasons. Most of them are to do with it’s heritage. One piece of history, though, is still clicking away — a 150-year-old camera that is still working well enough to take pictures. With an 1860 Carl Zeiss camera, Tikam Chand Pahari might be the last practicing street photographer in the country, sustaining a profession that was a rage over a century ago.
The apparatus is like something out of a period movie — a wooden camera covered with black leather with an inbuilt dark room for processing the photos. Like many other cameras, it was the only source of pictures back in those days. But what makes this on special is the fact it stayed despite the fact that such polaroid photography began to disappear during the 90s. From passport photos for driver’s licenses or passports to first wedding couple snaps, Tikam Chand has been working with the large, old camera from the time before digital cameras or cell phone cameras became popular.
Fortunately, Tikam Chand didn’t succumb to the pressure even if it meant a lot of extra expense and trouble. “With no spare parts available for the camera, we sometimes have to rely on Peepal leafs to keep the camera together. The lens has to be taken care of with great caution as well,” he says, explaining the art of maintaining the camera. According to him, all this effort is worth it as it keeps the tradition alive. “Photography is an art. And with today’s technology, everyone can be an ‘artist’. But we want to show that how it all began and how difficult it is to learn this art,” he adds.
From a time when this kind of camera was the only option for people to an era where he has to travel across cities to find the spare parts, he admits that it has been a “tough ride”. “But who cares when you love what you do, isn’t it,” he chuckles.
He has reasons to love his camera too. “The kind of clarity this camera produces is rare. For instance, I have a customer who comes to Jaipur from Spain every year just to map his aging. He asks me to click a photo every year and keeps it in his scrapbook,” he explains with pride.
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