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by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel
2015-10-16 08:47:07
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camera01_400The frightened or ‘I just got cheated’ expression I see in the faces of children and weird ‘Who told you I’m scared’ looks on elderly faces in olden day photographs baffled me until I knew of the flash bulbs and the sound of a small explosion and those big flashes that would make the people go blind for a few moments after the photographer pressed the shutter. It seems photography was hilarious and fun those days when the photographer would play hide and seek behind a big back thing and underneath a black cloth and suddenly puts one hand out as signal for everyone to pose. Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Apprentice’ sure gives a better idea of how complicated it is to click those days. As uncle Sheridon rightly said, ‘good dental care was not widely available or affordable those days and having to sit or stand still for a few minutes discouraged smiling. Or they didn’t have much of a reason to smile in front of a stranger, the photographer’. Who would want to hold a smile till the face cramps up!

I remember the camera we possessed long ago. It was quite a ‘Big black thing’- a Polaroid swinger to be precise, that captured special occasions. The tricky bit was keeping the camera steady to avoid motion blur and hence dad , a school and college NCC cadet who could manage a savdhaan even for an hour,  was the best bet .The film role was safeguarded from kids lest it would be exposed. From taking the film role to the studio to the making of an album, everything goes hunky dory. Then the pictures are cherished for years. For middle class, the camera was a luxury. Whenever we went on holidays, our camera and film rolls were also part of our luggage.

The next fascinating utility was a Polaroid land camera which meant no tiring walks to the studio but instant digital gratification.

I do remember Mayaki, our old maid always reprimanded anyone who tried taking pictures of newborns because she believed it to be a soul-sucking device. A cupboard was reserved for albums, neatly preserved with hand written footnotes. We, children never dared to open the cupboard and even elder cousins didn’t seem to earn the rights to touch the albums. Those picture albums were another entertainment for relatives and friends who dropped in.

Then ushered in an era of digital and mobile phone cameras that helped us with endless retakes and easy editing. Not just special occasions, everything mundane got recorded. I don’t find my little girls cherish images as I once did because of the extensive catalogue of memories.

Recently, my friend said ‘yes’ to a proposal after seeing the guys picture in his Facebook album. I accompanied her to meet him in person. Alas! He never looked like anything in the photo he sent. The marriage stood cancelled.

When boredom strikes me I take out albums and revisit childhood memories. It also reminds me of our family photographer who commanded in his baritone voice,”All eyes turn to the camera. Say cheese”.            

Discussing cameras are any parent’s nightmare as the children come up with a hundred names and numbers that are hard to pronounce or remember. So every time pronounceable names like Sony, canon, pentax, SLR or D-SLR pops out, parents are okay buying that. A camera is not just meant for photography. Many more are expected of a camera because every other person wants to participate in photography contests because the rewards would mean scoring themselves global media coverage if not at their own school or college. Somebody with an itchy feel might prefer a Nikon D 5300 for the integrated Wi-Fi and GPS. Sending photos and videos directly to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube is the order of the day and hence Canon EOS 6D is anybody’s desire. So, before amateur photographers reaches home thoroughly satisfied with a sleek Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS that has a generous 10x zoom range every other person is talking about a Canon EOS 6D or other models that have flooded the market.

Great pictures with less effort are the mantra and the tantra is Pentax K-3 with fast autofocus to its credit.

What could be more confusing than choosing one best camcorder for your family? Nothing or nobody made me feel more like a prehistoric human being than a friend asking me to suggest the best camcorder after sharing her knowledge on pixel resolution, the difference between optical and digital zoom, 3x or 15x zoom, type of sensors and batteries and types of display. Helping her with my suggestions was my option so I suggested on the brand, color and price keeping in mind the available discounts.

elsa_lycias_joel_400It takes a lot of effort to say between a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 and a mirrorless Nikon J1 unless and until you are seeing it up close. These cameras captivate anybody who would love to carry one in their back pockets. To me, a little bulkier version of the Canon PowerShot S100 is RX100 and when powered down they look a lot similar.

When we take a look at all the different types of camera right from cheap digital ones to mirrorless trying to ignore the most admired DSLR with Rs. X as our budget we can’t fight our urge to hold the little Nikon Coolpix S9700 providing an option of applying filters to any photo you've shot.

Paul Simon’s “They give us those nice bright colours. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day” still plays in the minds of many even though the 75 year old kodachrome has become history soon after the world turned digital. But the iconic images of the 20th century live on celebrating the very fact that Kodachrome was an important part of the history of all of photography just as we find the walls of our grandparents house decorated with those black and white family and wedding photos that have a lot to be said and relived.

As much as I’m trying to zoom my thoughts to remain closer to the topic, lot of choices bring in unnecessary distractions hindering my focus on the primary subject I intended to share in the first place.

Photography is an art, a hobby and a passion. And there are hundreds of affordable cameras in the market which can be carried in your pocket or jacket. Living, learning and engaging with new digital tools in ways radically different from those of older generations is for all to see. Week’s back I was at a restaurant with my family. A bunch of decked up girls and smart funky boys walked in. They ordered large portions of food and started photographing. I eavesdropped and knew those pictures were for their Facebook and Orkut albums. A faking of experience and spirit too, as I saw them a not so cozy bunch embracing and kissing as they posed for a few clicks. For them, their experience didn’t really count but the evidence did. When they walked out without the slightest guilt of wasting food, I sat perplexed.

Why should anyone hurriedly archive daily doings? Is it done to give others an impression of their lifestyle? Won’t these constant clicks reach a point of saturation? And if we forget to record something, will it seem like it didn’t happen at all? I find no perfect answers.

On the day when I agree to buy a multi-purpose or feature-rich camera for my children, I would surely regret the fact that this generation would never experience the excitement of awaiting developed photographs from a studio or learn the art of chronicling photos in an album, cherish them and preserve them.

Good luck with sharper, greater and exciting photographs and decorous smiles too!


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