Journey of Jaipur’s Famous Photographers – From Old-School to Digital Era

Do you remember playing darkroom as a child ? Yes we are talking about the game you would play with friends or cousins where you would shut all the lights of a room and try to find and recognize each other. Let us tell you all that this term was not just a play thing but the life of a photographer during 19th century when there were no ‘Point and Shoot’ cameras and definitely no SLRs and DSLRs. This is not it. There have been a lot of terms, struggles, hard times and victories faced and experienced by the photographers who followed their passion at a time when it wasn’t a cakewalk as there was no digital technology and mobile phones were not even invented, leave alone having cameras. Among these respected old-school photographers, Jaipur Beat picked up four ace photographers from Jaipur, who haven’t just been the heroes of their time, but the ones who never rested on their past laurels but walked this tough & competitive path to shine through the journey and still stayed ahead of many who jumped on the bandwagon much later. On World Photography Day, let’s know their nostalgic journey and what they think about the passion cum fashion called photography that prevails in this digital era 🙂

  1. Sudhir Kasliwal – The Richie Rich with an Undying Passion
    The head of Jaipur’s leading jewellery house – Gem Palace, Sudhir Kasliwal refused to let go of his penchant for photography despite being in a family business. He identified his passion at a tender age of 12 and went on to capture Rajasthan’s spellbinding life, landscapes and heritage at a time when availability of photography material & cameras was scarce and difficult. It was a time when having photography as a passion came at a cost but what is a passion that doesn’t go through the test of fire ? Due to high costs of printing and developing, Sudhir Ji set up his own darkroom at home to develop and print his photographs.
    “Earlier photographers were more disciplined . Today, with the ease of cameras and particularly phone cameras, everyone is a photographer but there is always a photograph and there is good photograph with aesthetic sense and spirit.”
    ~ Sudhir KasliwalThe man who started with a Kodak box camera, the one with 12-Exposure roll, went on to click Rajasthan like no one else has till date. With a heart full of passion and eyes beaming with art, he captured the beauty of his home town in black and white colors with his first box camera, that stays like a memoir in the chapters of Rajasthan.
    Panch Batti clicked through his first box cameraOne of his first SLR clicks included the City palace in 1980s while the first celebrity to be clicked by his Nikon 35 mm SLR camera was Rajmata Gayatri Devi in 1985. He became a sensation and won accolades for his 255 rare clicks of Rajmata exhibited at Jaipur Jewellery Show later in 2009.
    Quoting the famous quote of Ansel Adams-” You do not take a photograph but make it”, Sudhir Ji went on to say that earlier photographers were more disciplined but today’s photographers just take pictures and leave everything else to post-editing. There are exceptions, but this is where the majority lies today.

    His Message to the present & future photographers-
    “Keep clicking but good photographs are not made by good/ expensive cameras. Good photographs come out of your head. It is a way how you perceive and view your subject. So, think and plan before releasing the shutter of your camera. Like painting, photography is also an art. Merely clicking recklessly with your  modern motor driven digital cameras will not make you a photographer!”

    2. Tikam Chand – The Preserver of Old Charm 

    Found on the busy colorful streets of walled city of Jaipur, is a man who is proudly preserving three eras of photography with his 1860 Carl Zeiss camera  – Tikam Chand. A box camera model that was gifted to his grandfather Pahari lal by the then Maharaja of Jaipur, was passed to him as a legacy in 1977, and he hasn’t looked back since then. From passport size pictures to candid clicks, from school kids to Government officers, all used to flock to him to get the instant black and white pictures clicked by him.

    Though the era of box cameras ended when colored printing & filming came into existence but his box camera still stands strong and unique among these colored cameras. The box camera doesn’t require any roll and has fixer and developer that print pictures immediately with the beautiful backdrop of Hawamahal !

    Renowned stars of Indian film fraternity like Akshay Kumar, Govinda, Shatrugan Sinha and the famous stand-up comedian Surendra sharma have gotten their pictures clicked by him, but unfortunately, he could not keep their negatives 🙂

    “The difference between photographers now and photographers then is that today’s crowd doesn’t understand the true significance or meaning of the art of photography, they take it casually. They think having a digital camera means being a professional”.

    3. Dinesh Bhargava – The One to turn Passion into Profession

    Owner of Mayur Studio, one of the most famous photo studios in town, with an unmatched quality when it comes to the segment of wedding photography, Dinesh Bhargava had a word with Jaipur Beat about his journey so long. Owning the 19th century Nikon f2, the second member of the long line of Nikon F-series professional level, Dinesh possesses a collection of cameras from Germany, Russia, and Japan which only few can dream of. He bought his first camera in 1971 which was a YASHICA MAT 124. Having stepped in the professional world of photography at a young age of 18, Dinesh has only come miles ahead of many. With a two-floor studio of his own and highly valued & updated equipment imported from all over the world and cameras with a fabulous mechanical structure, Mayur studio & color lab has been tasting success for 35 years now.

    Famous personalities hailing from Jaipur viz. Sanjay shah, Juhi Parmar, Smita Bansal, Delnaaz and Bakhtiyar have gotten their photo shoots done at his studio. His photographs have played a crucial role in the careers of these celebs especially Juhi Parmar and Smita Bansal who gained instant popularity after this photo shoot.

    Message on photography day

    “It’s a mixture of education and art. I request people to take it seriously. If one wants pursue the work, then he/she has to have an eye for it.  I request new photographers to avoid the current trend and not engage in any sort of malpractice. You’re the one who is getting fooled in real life”.

    4. Umesh Gogna – A Photographer On The Run

    A paragon of the kind of photography which right now is a rage among the youth – Umesh Gogna knew at the age of 26 that he wanted to club his two passions into one – Travel & Photography. Having started to click in 1997, Umesh took his first leap into the mountains in 1999 with his camera and knew that this was just the beginning.

    With no Google, no good education about photography and no mentor to guide, Umesh is a self-made man who started off with Pentax P30 as his first camera. That was the time when films and prints were an expensive deal, there was no instant preview at location and the only motivation was the excitement till he waited for the film to get developed and see the results. He could only carry a maximum of 10 to 12 film rolls on a tour which meant a maximum of 400 frames for complete tour while nowadays even 4000 frames are not enough.

    With less information about remote places, less transportation, less accommodation and low road network, practicing photography wasn’t as easy as it seems today. “The major difference in his opinion is that at that time we thought about visual first and then decide the time for shoot and had to be doubly sure about technical aspects because we had very few frames.” Today anybody can buy a good DSLR camera and just shoot and preview.

    Message on World Photography Day
    “Capture like an artist or professional and not like a layman. Fall in love with visual and not with the equipment”

    Happy World Photography Day !


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