As the world moves forward to become more technologically advanced, millennials have decided to take a step back into the past. From the revival of mom jeans and chunky shoes to Y2K (the 2000s) fashion, there has been a lot of nostalgia-inspired popular reappearances in the fashion industry. However, along with fashion trends, items that were a big part of the previous decades such as film cameras and gramophones have also made a significant reappearance.
Before the digital era, a film camera used to be mass-produced and priced as such. But now, due to the renewed demand for these classic cameras and the lack of current production, a single vintage film camera may cost between one hundred and three hundred dollars. Collector’s editions, of course, go for much more in auctions. For instance, the 1923 Leica 0- Series no. 122 was sold at an auction for a whopping $2.97 million. It was a 35mm camera produced in 1923 as a prototype and was never intended to be used for commercial purposes. A Hasselblad camera which was used on the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 was also sold at an auction for $910,400.
What was once an almost extinct business is resurgent, as many people are rekindling their interest in classic cameras and wish to shoot images with analog cameras, for technical as well as aesthetic reasons. Although classic cameras have just emerged on a broad scale, there has always been a tiny number of people who adored these artefacts from before it was a mainstream trend. These people have spent years looking for and spending a significant amount of money on these relics from the past.
Dilish Parekh, a Mumbai-based photographer and collector, owns over 4,425 vintage cameras. He has been included in the Guinness Book of World Records twice, the Limca Book of World Records 10 times, and the India Book of World Records. Parekh’s collection includes conventional cameras as well as some unusual ones, such as a spy camera disguised as a wristwatch.
LuxeBook spoke to Aditya Arya, a collector of film cameras, and Director of Museo Camera Centre for the Photographic Arts in Gurgaon, about the whole sub-culture of collecting film cameras and his love for it.
Arya began collecting classic cameras more than 40 years ago and now has over 3,000 cameras in his collection. Visitors from all over the globe come to Museo Camera, which grew out of Arya’s collection, to not only appreciate the cameras but to also learn more about the art of photography and the minutiae that goes into it. Arya is enamoured with photography as well as everything that is a part of it.
Arya, who studied history, became increasingly interested in the intricacies of the camera, which fuelled his passion and affection for it. He travelled the world to acquire cameras to add to his collection. In pursuit of unique cameras, he scavenged flea markets in every city he has visited. Arya claims that he acquired the cameras at the spur of the moment. “I will not hesitate to acquire a rare camera that I may never discover again, regardless of the price. I have paid more than two or three lakhs on a single camera,” said Arya of his passion for collecting.
Collecting old artefacts isn’t a numbers game for Arya. He doesn’t particularly care about how many cameras he has or how much they are worth; if they convey a narrative, he deems them valuable. When asked about his most prized possession, Arya refuses to choose, “Each and every piece. I treasure each item that joins my collection.
Filming as a meditative process
The essence of a film camera, according to Arya, is the mechanics that goes behind it, “… the touch and feel,” since a person gets to be a part of the whole process while using a film camera. From attempting to capture the right photo to processing the film, this is an experience that modern digital cameras cannot provide. “We live in a delete button world,” Arya explains, where one can casually snap a photo and instantly delete it, but with an analog camera, everything must be accurate and faultless, which makes it far more exciting than shooting a selfie. Arya is pleased that people are falling in love with the film camera, but he wishes they knew more about how it works. Museo Camera now hosts workshops where participants can learn how to use a vintage camera, the intricacies of developing it, and celebrate the stages of photography.
Aditya Arya’s advice to anyone interested in starting their own collection of old cameras is to constantly establish a solid connection with sellers and build their confidence, and to never forget that it’s not a numbers game; and that each camera should convey a story.
This might be a new interest and avenue for the digital generation, learning and experiencing a little of the history and comprehending the roots of photography whereas for older and experienced photographers who have shot on film, it is a return to the basics, from testing one’s talents and instincts to detoxifying the undesired ones. Even though the digital world is constantly developing, the classical method of film photography is booming, and many people are returning to the treasured skill.