From a brazen and still and stiff looking snap shot with a bellows and box camera and the photographer disappearing behind a big and black canvas with a word of caution: “Do not move, open the eyes and smile”, the photography has touched the space and gauged the unfathomable oceans and entered into human bodies and mesmerized the tinsel world of glitter with trick shots and morphing and piercing through the darkness. It has turned into a watchful eye everywhere. A camera has become an integral part of the human race. No brand of mobile phone comes out without this basic feature now days. What was considered to be an expert’s prerogative and a status symbol hanging around the neck of a rich and a foreign returned, has now become a child’s toy. Most costliest are now available for an affordable price, even the duplicate is as good as a new one and is even cheaper. Now there are cameras fitted on the cars with sensors and probes that can feel and see the road ahead, the obstacles in front and sides and back to avoid rubbing and collision.
Now let us probe into the fun that the camera and the camera man make in celebrations.
One single shot with the box camera of the newly married couple or that of the old couple during their golden jubilee year and a few copies for the very near and dear ones that gets exchanged and preserved on the wall with a frame work was all that was in those bygone eras of the black and white photography. It was all done during daytime under the sunlight.
With the arrival of hand held cameras and the film rolls attached, the different sequences during an occasion was captured in stillness.Everytime, a click and a ratchet action was required to reposition the frame in the film. This needed meticulous care, otherwise the film will be lost as it cannot be rolled back.
The usual dialogue by a so called expert with an amateur photographer will be that he takes 38 frames from a 36 frame roll. No gimmick in this. If the roll is loaded in a dark room, it is possible by all, that is to say, the end frames can also be used for a snap, if the leader end is carefully inserted.
The earlier Flash era started with a single magnesium stick and later went to carbon arcs. The single bulb era came out in early fifties. One frame, one flash was the slogan. With a heavy duty battery attached to the shutter through a plastic coated glass bulb with a Zirconium and Magnesium filament,, which after emitting a huge luminous intensity of flash , quite often creating a temporary blindness, and crumple like a dented tin. The photographer has to wear a leather glove to remove the bulb from its socket, as it will be very hot. Collecting these crumpled and blackened bulbs were a pastime for the children.
The electronic era brought out a sea change in the photography.
The boom in world travel brought out the Camera culture to this land in a very big way. Every celebration, from birth to death, even before and after those events by the paparazzi and media are photographed and encapsulated in a tape and later in a pen drive or hard disc and CDs for a later viewing for those who have missed to participate in the event. There will be some who will display these CDs when a stranger visits their house to show the idiosyncrasy, or simply put, ‘tooting one’s own horn’.
The hired cameraman is the ultimate authority in finalizing the sequences in the event. He will demand for a rehearsal, if the frame is not captured properly or missed. More the number of cameramen running during a celebration, higher the status of the party.
For the child in cradle celebration, the mother has to at least make about 15 retakes in putting the baby before the final OK is announced by the videographer. He is being paid for that.
If it is a tea party or dinner, the cameraman moves from each table followed by his light boy with many wires and switchboxes tied around him as if he is wearing a time bomb which can explode at any time. Somebody from a girl’s party told that it is a surveillance camera that will quickly find out the unauthorized entries and can catch hold of the thieves.
In every party, at least 5 people would have stumbled and fallen by the never ending cable crisscrossing all along the length and breadth of the hall. The number of TVs kept at all the nook and corner, except the toilets is really an eyesore.
After seeing a wedding reception recently, I was shocked to see the extravaganza in the photography.
A real fuss.
The moment I entered the far away gate, I saw three or four cameramen standing at the gate at strategic points. Thank God I had come walking in curta veshti costume with a long bag on my shoulder. One cameraman stopped me and asked for my ID and I showed the invitation card and he allowed me to go. Later only I realized that had I come by car, my pictures would have filled his few frames right from parking the car up to the entry point into the hall.Wah! I kept wondering, had my place been that of Amitabh!
As usual I entered the hall. One more wonder was waiting. The entire hall was with all the logistics that made the atmosphere befitting for a cinema shooting. The swings, the tracks and trolley, the ladders, the telescopic lift and all. A doubt araised in my mind whether I had stepped into a wrong place as I could not see the bride and her parents. I checked the card and got convinced and only after one lady in waiting brought a cup of soft drink which I gulped and sat down in a chair. A Cinderella’s horse cart was waiting outside. Most possibly for the bride to sit and the groom to follow on the horseback. A real cinema in miniature!
There were about 25 cameramen and their assistants, all running to all the places inside.
When the groom and bride entered the arena, the shooting started in full swing with cameras at all angles. Each and every movement was micro graphed, rather to say. The girl was bedecked with gold to such an extent that she could not raise her neck up and the cameraman had to make her upright. The cameraman on the trolley was commanding the bride to move in such a way and for me it looked as if she had just emerged unscathed from an accident, or, supported as she was by two flushy gushing aunts like a patient walking for a first time after an operation!
Long back I had seen the photograph of our Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw with his left shoulder side pockets of his shirt uniform drooping unable to bear the weight and number of the medals he had acquired during his career! That was something to be proud of.
During all these sequence of light, camera, action operation, I felt happy about one thing. There was no clapper boy anywhere to make double sure that it is only a wedding photography and not cinema.
I could meet the parents of the bride, for on that behalf only I was there, and handed over the small gift that I had to present it to her, fully knowing that I will be missing my train back to Chennai, if I have to stand at the tail end of the long queue. Then quickly had my lunch. The menu was of a 5star status. While munching the curd rice and an ice cream, I prayed for the starving millions!
Later, while sitting in the train I could guess the later scenes that would have come in the frames.
Hope they would have closed the shutter at the appropriate moment.
The parents wallet would have been flashed out.
Bye, I am closing my shutter as it is raining outside. The chillness the rain created made me cool.
A dream before I slept.
Date 23rd March 2014