Old Photo Studios, Dark Rooms & more…

Studio photographs of my parents

Browsing through the old albums I suddenly remembered those photo studios that were in every nook and corner when I was a kid. People used to go to the studios regularly to get their photographs taken – solos, couple photos, family photographs etc. The photographer used to usher them inside, make them stand against a backdrop – mostly black or navy-blue heavy curtain, and take the photograph. These studios had face powder, comb and a few make up items lying around in case a customer needed to touch up before the click.

Studio visits were an event often marked by important occasions like anniversaries, birthdays etc. People would usually put on their best clothes, jewelleries and make-up before each visit. My parents got their pictures clicked pretty frequently when they were newly-wed. After I was born a photographer used to come home every month to take my photographs, privileges of the first-born! Those were the days of black & white photographs, the studious were much simpler. The photographer who used to take my pictures had a studio in the neighbourhood that has gone out of business long ago!

Very few people had cameras then, it was considered to be an expensive hobby. Luckily two of my uncles (my mom’s brother-in laws) were into photography. They owned those manual cameras with flash. Thanks to them we have a huge collection of childhood photographs taken during summer vacations.

When I was 16 my father got me an automatic Yaschika Camera.The gift came with riders – to be used judiciously under adult supervision. I was thrilled nonetheless. I would coax and cajole my parents to buy me film rolls.Yes, cameras’ then needed to be loaded with rolls first – Kodak, Fuji etc. Once loaded we could take about 34 to 36 photographs. Each photograph was carefully framed because we tried our best not to waste films. The film rolls were then developed in the dark rooms of the studios. Once done bundle of photographs with negatives were handed over to us. I still remember holding the negatives against the light trying to decide which ones to be sent for reprint.

Dark rooms always had a certain mystery and allure for me. I would try to peek into the dark room whenever I was sent to collect photographs. Writers and filmmakers did use the concept of dark room very deftly.The iconic movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro revolves around two friends (Nasiruddin Shah & Ravi Baswani) trying to catch a killer who was accidentally captured in an image that was being developed by Nasiruddin (a photographer) in the darkroom. Not sure if such scenes will lend meaning to our generation next for whom dark room is only a photography app or a game!

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