A popular joke making its rounds on facebook is about a photographer who gets invited to a socialite’s party and the socialite remarks, “Your photographs are amazing! You must own a fantastic camera!” To which the photographer replies, “The food is great! You must have a fantastic stove.”
We live in a time when cameras have become a rage in the list of must-have gizmos. It is, however, a well known myth-buster that owning a Nikon makes you a Nikon owner, not a great photographer. The best devices at a photographer’s disposal are perspective and imagination. Here are two vignettes of our participants of the photography group who do wonders with cellphone cameras.
Rohit Pachrane, a junior college student, has a hairstyle you cannot miss. A tuft of spiked hair tells you he is that odd mix of meticulousness and rebellion. His concern for precision is evident in his photographs as well. Rohit has been clicking away the best and tthe worst of Dharavi for almost a year now. His interest was furthered some months back when he heard of photojournalist Sudharak Olwe and his association with the Dekha Undekha programme. Rohit was excited to know that here was an opportunity to bring to light the many urban health issues in the area of Dharavi where he lives.
What Rohit loves about photography is that it has changed his ‘drishtikon’ – his sense of perspective. He has become more aware of himself and has left his boyhood dressing habits (such as shorts) and now only wears full length trousers. He takes photographs of buildings, beaches, people, sunrises and sunsets. When he is photographing, his mind becomes free and everything else disappears except his subject. His friends and their conversations dissolve away.
But his disregarded friends are not upset with his behaviour. In fact, one of his friends is so supportive that he took fifteen snaps from Rohit and used them as screensavers for his computer. His family is equally supportive and his mother plans to buy him a digicam very soon. For now, he has a friend with a cellphone camera, which is enough for him to weave magic with.
Zarina Khan, a petite steely woman of 28, has never been to school. She can’t read a menu card, an address or a name. But give her a camera and she comes alive. For Zarina, the camera has become an instrument of great power by which she can document and disseminate information. She is getting trained as a social worker at the SNEHA centre in Dharavi and photographs are thus of undeniable value. A friend of hers was beaten up by the husband and she was able to capture the fresh wounds on camera, which was of help as evidence for the police.
She says you can threaten any victimiser with the power of photographs and that “Ek camera ke saath himmat hai” (You can be confident with a camera). While her brothers are not supportive of her endeavour, she is personally very happy with the cellphone camera that helps her to reveal so much about Dharavi and her life.