My first camera at 14 was a Kodak Hot Shot 110 S film camera. A birthday gift. It was a nice black piece of plastic into which we had to stick a 110 cartridge film that came in 12, 15, 20 or 24 exposures. And then we had to take the pictures and wind the film reel, so that when we opened the back to take out the cartridge, film wouldn’t get ‘exposed’ and ruined.
The process was so long. I remember being annoyed about the whole procedure each time, because I was not blessed with patience. The print store took at least a week to give it back to us, because it has to be manually processed in a dark room. (It wouldn’t be until 1994 that I would truly come to appreciate the art or the patience and skill required to make perfect color prints.)
Anyway, the year was 1984. Film was the only thing that made a camera work and it was called photography, and photographers were nearly as revered as professionals like engineers and doctors. Of course, not…I’m kidding.
Nobody cared how the film captured the image and nobody valued photographers enough to give their daughters. I have proof of that. Several of my parents’ friends were photographers and they were all single then, and they died single. Among my friends – girls and boys in and outside my age-group, all of us residing in a gigantic flat building in Calcutta – nobody owned a camera. Maybe a couple of parents, of a couple of my friends did…like Minolta and Yashika… imported mostly from US or Japan, or from the Kidderpore ‘chor’ bazaar of Calcutta.
Yet, out of the blue, at 14, I did. My friends didn’t care much for it because I never took their photos until much later. I wasn’t particularly kicked about it either because I couldn’t buy the precious film cartridges whenever I wanted. Pocket money didn’t exist in my parents’ dictionary, and I hated to ask. Also I had a hard time remembering the ISO versus the shutter speed ratios. Upon much coercion and with many reminders, I would take it out and carry it with me to the zoo and for holidays during which my parents because pretty generous. They always bought me the 12 or the 15 exposures one, which pissed me off because before I blinked, it would be over. No matter how much thought I put into the ‘family’ photo or ‘action’ photo.
Photography wasn’t as common then as the Common Cold, like it is now. It was a very expensive hobby so no one was into it. Only those who earned money out of it owned cameras and opened studios even. It was a priceless time. The 1970’s and 80’s, because when we did something, we did it with so much of reverence and caution. There was no ‘preview’ or ‘delete’ or ‘histogram’. It was what it was. Like the Common Cold. You did what you could with the best of your knowledge.
Yet, some of the best photos, in terms of composition and light, were created at that time by some of the world’s best photographers. And they did not even have Instagram to brag about followers.
Imaging as we called it later in the 1990’s, was not about competing with one another. Certainly not about ‘Is his photograph better than her’s?’ – it was more about nostalgia, romance and passion that we wanted to capture in the photo. It wasn’t about taking a picture in the moment and then discarding the moment itself for a better picture.
I took this picture and refused to delete it. I just liked the way the flower looked. I was told that this photo was not going to win awards. Who cares? That’s how my eyes saw it and liked it. Common or not, I prefer to live in the spirit of the moment.
Sometimes, at any rate.