From film to digital, Chandni Chowk’s camera market is adapting to the new

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“Photography is no longer an art, it used to be,” says Rajkumar Kapoor, owner of Madanjee & Co, a camera store in Chandni Chowk’s “camera market”. One of the oldest camera shops here, it was founded in Peshawar by Kapoor’s grandfather, who moved it to Delhi after partition and established it in Chandni Chowk in 1955. After his grandfather, the store belonged to Kapoor’s father, and now to Kapoor. Like Madanjee & Co, many stores in the camera market have been around since the 1950s and ownership has been passed down from generation to generation. What used to be around six stores has grown to over 200 now, all packed together.

While stores display old manual analog cameras, most of their business now involves repairing and selling digital cameras. All surviving stores have adapted over time to the technological evolution of photography – from black and white film to color and digital. A recent revival of film photography has sparked a wave of customers, mostly young customers, seeking to repair old cameras that belonged to their parents and grandparents.

Ashoka Studio, one of the first stores seen entering the market, has seen an increase in customers who want to have old cameras repaired and film developed. Kapil Inderjeet Vohra of KIV Engineering, one of the oldest camera repair shops, says they receive about two cameras a day for repair, much more than the two cameras a month they used to receive. Like most stores in the market, KIV Engineering has always been a camera repair store and has recently started offering cleaning services. Some shops still offer shoots, although this has all but stopped as most residents have moved out of Chandni Chowk and no longer require the studio shoots service.

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Digital photography still remains the dominant form of photography, and the market largely responds to it, although some still remember times gone by. “You can take multiple photos with a digital camera. With cinema, it was an art; Previously, it took time, from setting up the studio to processing the film. There were skills involved. Anyone can do it now. The new generation ‘clicks’, not ‘gets it’,” says Kapoor, who believes the renewed interest in film photography doesn’t mean it’s back for good. “There was a time when we thought cinema would come back, but we were wrong.”

Although the store still sells black-and-white film and modern analog cameras, such as the Kodak M35, which Kapoor says looks like a toy, their sale is negligible. The store once had a photo development lab, which has now been closed. For now, only a few shelves in the store are devoted to analog photography equipment and film.

(The writer is an intern at The Indian Express)


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