“Hello! Hello! Old Camera!”. We usually bolt in a different direction when a street-side tout starts shouting at us, but upon seeing Mr. Chand and his vintage camera just outside Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal, we knew we’d be in for something good.
The camera is a piece of history. Manufactured in Germany in the 1860s, the leather-clad box houses its own ‘darkroom’ in the back and a beautiful Carl Zeiss lens in the front. It was handed down to Mr. Chand by his grandfather, who, back in the day, used it for the royal photographs of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Nowadays, Mr. Chand and his brother post up around the Palace of the Winds every day to keep the family tradition alive.
Starting at the nominal price of 250 Rupees (approximately $3.80) for a small picture, and up to 300 Rupees (approximately $4.60) for a larger one, you can have your portrait taken and developed on the spot.
First, you’ll be asked to sit down in front of a makeshift backdrop about a meter away from the camera (yes, you will attract some curious onlookers). Mr. Chand will then fumble around his magic box to manually adjust the focal point of the lens, before asking you to sit very still for a few moments. The shutter is released by hand, letting in just enough light for an imprint to be made, which, after a chemical rinse and a water bath creates a negative print. The process is repeated by photographing the negative image, after which your final portrait is produced.
Not only does this make for a unique keepsake or a perfect postcard to send back home, your contribution also keeps a piece of living history alive.
One block North of Hawa Mahal