“Hello! Excuse me! Old camera.” shouts Tikam Chand to get attention of one of the tourist passing by. The old camera that he points at has been a part of his family for more than 150 years. Tikam Chand’s grandfather, who they refer to as Pahari Master, used to be the Royal Photographer for the Maharaja of Jaipur in the 19th century. After the princely state dissolved, the responsibility to preserve the camera, manufactured in 1860 in Germany, was bestowed upon him. Pahariji valued this piece of history and also taught the same to his children. Tikam Chand and his brother, the grandsons, took the responsibility of the camera in 1977 and since then has been taking care and clicking photos of people with the camera on the pavement which doubles up as his studio near Hawa Mahal.
The body of the camera is made of wood and has a focus set, a 4×5 Carl Zeiss lens and a dark room all built in it. “During the time of my grandfather we used to get Gavit paper which started in 1860 itself, then came Indupaper, and after that Noa lustre. Even now we continue to use Noa but do not get it here in Jaipur. Sometimes I get it from studios in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Ahmedabad or sometimes I have go as far as Chennai.” says Mr Chand. The scarcity of these resources has led the brothers to charge upto Rs 200 for a photo little bigger than a passport size photo.
As I click photos of the grand daddy of my DSLR, I wonder to myself how has the democratisation of photo technology taken away some of the charm away from the simple act of taking a photo. It might be easy to fill the memory cards today but at the end of the day only a few of those hundreds photos really matters. I certainly long the days of shooting in film when we had to anxiously wait to hold the photos in our hands while they were being developed in the dark room.
Popularly known as the Minute camera, Tikam turns sombre when he says, “This is the only kind left in the world.” As the camera continues to brave the world standing on a broken tripod, Mr. Chand says, “I am training my next generation all about this camera as I want them to continue preserving this heritage. I am pretty sure that the world will soon once again move towards black and white photography and realise the importance of this camera and its technology.”
Braving all the weathers since 1977, you will find Tikam Chand or his brother along with their old camera near the entrance of Hawa Mahal between;
Summers – 6:30am – 7:30pm
Winters – 10am – 5:30pm
Tikam Chand and his 150-year old camera