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You are caught!

by Vimala Ramu
(Bangalore)

With the modern cameras in the cell phones any kid can click to get excellent pictures. But, photography in the early days was a tiresome job.


Those days we would be led to a backroom in the studio. A man would go behind the bulky camera mounted on a tripod and covered with a black cloth. He would also get into the black tent and with the other hand would insert the lens in front of the camera and then you would have the picture developed, printed and delivered on the specified date.

(The fact that I, as a kid of four, happen to have a mournful face in the family picture is because I had thought that we would all be sucked into the huge, black monster of a camera!)

Since it was a very rare occasion, the subject would be all decked up (at least the exposed-to-camera portions). Girls with jasmine flowers plaited into their hair would be made to sit in front of the mirror so that both their front and back would be caught in the picture. Some girls would be dressed like Goddess Saraswathi holding a veena in their hand, probably pointing in the wrong direction! Men would get photographed with goggles on, in filmy poses, with the Taj Mahal or some other scenery as the backdrop.

What were most amusing those days would be the pictures taken outdoors by amateurs with box cameras. The subject would be holding a bicycle or holding on to the open door of a car, though he/she would be neither owning the vehicle nor would he be knowing how to ride/drive one.

On the whole, portraits or otherwise, they were mostly posed ones and not clicked in natural ambience. Frauds could be easily traced to the studios whose name and address would be stamped
behind the pictures.

In one of our trips to Hawaii, we were asked to get a 6 month visa for an overnight halt at Seoul, South Korea. The photographer told us that for a passport picture, both ears should be visible and for a visa one, the face should be slightly turned to expose one ear or probably vice versa.

Now, with the digital pictures taken in hundreds, only the best is chosen for printing and the rest erased. It is also easy to manipulate the pictures to give any face to any body.

We wanted to take a family group photograph when there was a rare occasion of the whole family being present with our children, their spouses and children. The first time when everything was ready, little Alena who had not yet got over her jetlag, fell asleep promptly and the project had to be aborted. Next time, our grandson’s flight was held up due to fog and we had the picture taken nevertheless as the studio appointment could not be put off.

Around 25 pictures were taken with different combinations. Someone would have blinked, someone’s mouth would be blurred or open in a big “O” or someone’s petticoat would be showing. Finally the best one was chosen for printing and lamination.

When our copy of the printed picture came, I, the doting grandmother, not wanting to see him missing in the rare group photograph, cut off my grandson’s face from another picture, grafted it onto the group and got it rephotographed. Poor fellow, I could have got his head shrunk a little by the computer, because it looked so out of proportion to those of his two aunties flanking him!

But the best modern invention I like is where we can talk to our children and grandchildren in the video on the computer.

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Mar 20, 2011
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Thanks
by: vimala ramu

Thank you Eva and Geeta. Though I never owned a camera I am glad I was able to bring back the recollections of some of the owners. Photography in modern days is no big deal at all.

Mar 19, 2011
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TRUE PICTURE
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

I always shy away from the camera because I generally look awful in snaps. Not that there is hell and heaven difference otherwise.

But I like Harry Potter's concept of moving photos.

Your blog reminds me of my Digha trip. I had purchased my first beginner's camera just before/for the trip. In my excitement, I went on clicking whatever caught my attention. It was only after developing the reel that I was told (by my uncle) that a photograph should have a specified object too and clicking at random did not help.

Idea! I might as well write about my Digha Sojourn sometime in my subsequent blog.

Great piece. As always enjoyed. The latest in photography is morphing.

Sep 29, 2010
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You are caught.
by: Eva Bell

I enjoyed this piece very much. It brought back memories of the good old days. There was so much drama before the photographer's head disappeared under the black cloth and he shouted 'Say Cheese' before the explosion of the flash.
Grand children today think it must have been hilarious.

Sep 26, 2010
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Title
by: vimala ramu

Thanks Sneha for your comments. One thing that used to put me off during my 'Middles' days was that they always used to change the title of my blogs,probably an ego issue with the editors.

Sep 26, 2010
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You are caught!
by: Sneha

Vimala, I loved the title of this article... You have a profound sense of writing, indeed.
This makes me recollect what my thatha (grandfather) tells me. He still has an old camera (about 45 years old) and he is now 85. He loved photography since a young age and I have seen many family photographs... I love photography and somehow love the black and white caught-in-the-midst-of-a-click rather than the modern air brushed and many a times altered photographs.
Loved your article completely!

Sep 25, 2010
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Thanks
by: vimala

Thank you, Sonal. The next generation wouldn't even know what old world photography was all about!

Sep 25, 2010
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Capturing memories
by: Sonal Shree

Enjoyed this article and could visualize most of it. Makes me recall an incident when my mother proposed that she'd click a group photo by digital camera(she isn't used to it as yet). When we posed for a long time, she said- smile. Instead of clicking the photograph, the camera was shut off. She had pushed the OFF button.There were about 7-8 people posing for that photo.

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