Get a polaroid picture taken and developed right in front of you on a heritage camera in Jaipur. This is one souvenir we insist you take back as a piece of history in this selfie infested world
As you walk pass the chaos, colour along the busy streets of Jaipur, crossing the enchanting honeycomb Hawa Mahal, you will happen to spot a photographer with a tripod-mounted 1860 Carl Zeiss camera – one of the few of its kind that remain in the world today.
We recommend that you stop. And meet Tikam Chand, the photographer who today happens to be proud owner of this rare antique equipment. This living heritage was once used to take pictures of royalty during the Raj era. In modern day and times when every smartphone is a camera and we do not tire taking selfies, we are adding this as a pit stop in your trip to Jaipur, and insist you let Tikam Chand take a picture of yours and process it in front of you and give it to you as a lovely take-by souvenir.
All Photographs: Ayandrali Dutta
This rare standing model was gifted to Pahari Lal (Tikam Chand’s grandfather) by the Maharaja of Jaipur as he was the photographer for the royal family. Pahari Lal, a passionate photographer himself, passed on this equipment as inheritance down his generations.
Manufactured in the 1860s – this camera has its darkroom, fixer, developer and film box, all inside the 20-kg apparatus! Following the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Tikam Chand has been using the camera since 1977.
A Tourist Attraction
Today the camera happens to be more of a tourist attraction. This antique camera stands mounted on a wooden stand, the body is covered with worn out black leather and set with brass hardware and stands with the backdrop of Hawa Mahal exuding a vintage magical charm of its own. Till date, spare parts when needed along with the chemicals used for developing the pictures need to be brought from France!
Tikam Chand strongly believes that black and white Polaroids are a real souvenir which has its own dose of nostalgia. It is intriguing to see him prep for action: he asks his subject to sit on the bench that’s right in front of the camera as he adjusts and checks the settings ‘under the hood’… mainly the focus by sliding the lens back and forth. Seeing this pinhole camera in a much workable condition is amazing.
After the picture is clicked, the negative is produced and rinsed with chemicals and put in the water bucket. Post that he affixes the negative to a board and then the photographs takes the final shape. It’s magical to see your photo being developed right there in front of you and you absolutely must expose your children to this science as most have no clue what technique goes into making prints.
Talk to Tikam and he will passionately explain why digital cameras can never give such joy that one gets from polaroid. Every day is a challenge for him as the Noa Lustre that he uses is not available anywhere in the city so he constantly in touch with the bigger photo studios in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and even Chennai to get that particular paper.
The camera has even made its Bollywood debut with it being used as a prop in popular movies like Shudh Desi Romance, Bhool Bhulaiyan, Sherkhan and Ek Tha Tiger.