A fascinating history of pictures

A fascinating history of pictures

Probably the need for a passport picture or personal matrimonial picture (aka that of our parents inspired by the colonial rulers) would drive you to a nearby photo studio today. Dressed with a little more care and a dab of powder puff, one tries to look pretty for documentation of their identity. For the rest, digital cameras and cellphone cameras do the needful.

Those desiring to relive the old charm of being photographed, needn’t be disappointed anymore - for there is still a place in Connaught Place - Mahatta & Co, who will happily click your mug or portrait – for a price ofcourse!

As one walks into the shop, which has had the distinction of clicking royals like Maharani Gayatri Devi and Maharaja of Patiala – a middle-aged man carefully places a picture-book on Maharajas in front of you and readies himself to speak. “The bulbs in the studio have been replaced by flashlights now,” reveals Pavan Mehta, the third generation of the family who takes care of the business. His grandfather started the venture in 1915, in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan. “Post Partition, he came here and set up the shop at its present location,” shares Pavan holding up an old photograph of the studio in Rawalpindi.

“I didn’t go abroad, unlike my dad who was sent by my grandfather to London,” he smiles standing in front of a collection of old cameras ranging from an 1898 Kodak to the first floppy digital camera of Sony. The man has also taught dark room work to Amitabh Bachchan, “when he was recuperating (in Delhi) from his injury.”

As one of the oldest hands in the business, Pavan is proud of the fact that, “Father introduced computerised printing in India in 1972 and later digital imaging in 1986. I joined the setup in 1984 and the dynamics of photography changed soon after.”

When it comes to mentality or attitude vis avis vanity, “things haven’t changed much but technology has changed a lot,” he says. “And so, we still get customers who want to get portraits, especially the upper-middle class who don’t mind paying extra.”

Just then an old man walks in asking for a copy of a photo that he had got clicked a year back. Pavan shares that they maintain archives but due to a fire some years back, negatives from 1915 to 1980s were destroyed!

“It would have been great if we could exhibit old photographs during our centenary celebration two years down (in 2015). I would want the Government to help us set up a studio to preserve the old images,” which are part of our heritage.

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