Dubai Diaries: What was your first camera?
A Minolta Riva AF35 was one of my most treasured possessions back in the '90s.
As I was scrolling through Instagram the other night, I came across a handle that posts vintage photographs, which got me thinking about how the art of photography has evolved over the last few decades. The first camera I ever owned was a parting gift from my mother when I left home for college in the early ‘90s. A Minolta Riva AF35, it went on to become one of my most treasured possessions. I began taking pictures of college events, hostel life with roommates, and some family occasions as well. At times I even fancied myself a ‘nature’ photographer.
Working a vintage camera required skills — like how to load the film correctly. Many a roll has been ruined by clumsy fingers. It also required a certain aesthetic sense. Unlike today, when one can take countless shots by just clicking on their phones before narrowing down on the most flattering, back then a considerable amount of thought went into each photo, as with a film camera one couldn’t click indiscriminately. It would be a waste of film roll that cost money to buy, as well as develop in a photo studio.
Also, unlike today when you can delete pictures of yourself that you don’t like, back then you would tear them up quietly (a wise choice, in retrospect) or relegate them to a box of unwanted stuff that unfortunately rears its head when you least expect it to — like when a visitor to the house years later is treated, over tea, to a host of hilarious teenage pictures of you and your friends.
If I had to pick a favourite photo taken with my Minolta Riva AF35, it would be one from a mid-‘90s trip with friends to South India, where we visited among other places, the picturesque hill-station of Kodaikanal.
Someone there captured a carefree portrait of twenty-something me — clad in a purple turtleneck over jeans with a jacket wrapped around my waist, hair blowing in the wind, amidst the backdrop of lush green hills. That photo will always be symbolic somehow, of the joys of being young and ecstatically alive, in an era when a ‘camera’ meant more than just clicking hundreds of photos in the quest to find the ‘perfect’ one.
But my favourite photograph of all time was clicked many years before I owned a camera, even before I was born. My mother and her two sisters were captured knitting in their courtyard, in an undated picture that somehow encapsulates how we all live our small yet meaningful lives that often intertwine, much like the wool being pulled together by their needles.
Theirs was a world of love, comfort and companionship in such ordinary and everyday things as chatting over a cup of evening tea while making a pair of socks for a newborn in the family. I like to think they will always be in this moment from long ago, somehow, when nothing mattered except the clicking of their needles and the comfort of knowing they were in the company of one another. New or old, every picture tells a story, doesn’t it?