Right from the beginning of my career in movies, I started travelling to interesting locations for shootings. And I would always feel that my friends and family should also get a taste or a glimpse of wherever I went or whatever I have done. That must have been the reason I took to photography so very passionately. May be not entirely. People do feel like clicking pictures, so they carry a camera with them. But this desire to click is stronger in me now. Any ways various mental or physical strengths naturally, keep changing in intensity.
My 1950 model Contaflex has been with me since 1974 and still going strong! It is totally a manual camera, with strong mechanical structure; so there is not much in it to wrong. I am told this is basically a German camera; but for just one year, it was manufactured in Russia and I happened to get one those models. So, it is dependable old German gadget and not one of those delicate darlings of today, with so many facilities and weak electronics. I must have clicked nearly 5000 pictures through its 50mm block lens. I have been getting it serviced too – though not too often.
Let me take this opportunity to thank 2 people here. First is Mr. Jayant Patel, who was instrumental in getting me hooked on to photography and second person is Mr. S I Sheikh, an expert in servicing old cameras. He gave up his repairing-business recently because he became too old. Because of him I could keep my camera going strong for years. At this moment I don’t even know if he is around…
I had bought this Contaflex for a sum of Rs. 800. Those days my average monthly income was about Rs.1000. But I could spend that large sum of 800, because I happen to save some cash after I signed up working with a big film company.
Well, Jayantbhai was an excellent still photographer. He must have won more than 50 medals in competitive photography. And all those medals were kept in a cotton bag (Thaila) that hung unceremoniously by the nail on the wall in their house.
Once during monsoons I was travelling to Lonavala and my first digital camera gave way. The screen suddenly got pixelated. I changed the batteries. Switched it off/on. Nothing! Sadly, I started watching lovely green hills and valleys (photographs) passing away. I felt I missed a lot of pictures during that beautiful journey. Soon I stopped struggling to fix the camera and concentrated on the view from the bus window. I did some reflection on it.
Surprisingly some benefits of ‘not being able to click pictures’, dawned on me, which did not show ‘clicking pictures’ in a very positive light –
*While shooting pictures I decide some scenes are good and some not so good – does it mean that I am being judgemental?
*I take pictures to show others, or is it to show off – is there a trace of ego?
*If the picture is being clicked while travelling then I have to move my eyes from the scene in order to pick up my camera, focus, zoom or make other adjustments in the camera. Thus my mind gets engrossed in a mechanical and relatively unartistic activity; while the scene would be passing away without me even taking a look at it. Thus I will not be able to ‘fix’ that scene in my memory. It will finally remain on the photographic print or in HDD of my computer. I realised travelling pictures make me loose a lot, mainly because I am not seeing the visual directly and so called ‘fully’. If I use all that time to look at the panorama, it will get memorised in my mind in rich 3-D with all related sounds, movements and smells, while the photograph will remain a soul-less 2-D frame. All it will document that I passed here one day.
So if I am travelling to a new location, it may not be worthwhile to look away or look through a gadget rather than look directly at the view. I remember once I was flying by a helicopter to Madurai and I noticed some amazing formations of clouds. They looked like soft fluffy toys of various amazing shapes, playing with each other. I remember them so well because my camera was not at hand.
If I stop somewhere for a leizurely cup of tea; I would have time to replay that scene in my mind. Yes, that would be only in my mind.
Makes sense? I am sure not for all.