Kolhapur's Sarvesh Deorukhakar loves looking at the world through filters and pathfinders. He is not much of a photographer, but the more than 500 cameras he has in his collection, including the world's first SLR that was launched in 1935, could make any shutterbug jealous. And when he was invited to showcase his collection at the just-concluded International Film Festival of India in Goa recently, Deorukhakar knew very well that more than the vintage of the cameras on display, the audience was also marvelling at a passion that he never let die.Sarvesh talks about his collection: "I brought close to 200 cameras with me for this exhibition. It has range finders, single lens reflex film cameras and twin lens reflex cameras among others. I also have 110 and 120 SLRs, full- and half-frame cameras, exacta vest pocket model, CS 35 AF, Nilox, Mamiya and Arriflex." Deorukhakar rattles off names of many more cameras about which even seasoned photographers wouldn't have heard of, but the pride in his voice is unmistakable.
(All photos: Rohit Vats)
Ask him how did it all start, and his eyes light up. "My father was undergoing photography training in the ‘60s then he started his own studio in Kolhapur. We didn’t sell our old cameras even after they were upgraded. Soon it became and hobby and we decided to build a collection. We started looking out for sales and auctions, and at times even exchange older models for the newer ones we had in our collection. There were times when we got some precious models from scrap markets from around India. I don't collect cameras that are made after 2002 since they are considered technologically new." The oldest camera in the collection he brought for IFFI was an 1893 model Hunter Pensrose, but he claims he has even older models back home.
Deorukhakar says that over the years even his family has been bitten by his passion. Says he: "I don't know how much we have spent till now on my passion. Also, we have never valued it. It’s a hobby, so money doesn’t matter much."
The younger generation's disinterest in these historical pieces, Deorukhakar says, is disappointing. "They are not interested in the history of cameras. They are happy with their phone cameras and relatively cheaper digital cameras. Though the process and technique remain the same, the digital replacement of film has changed a lot in the way we look at photographs." His explanation of the current situation is interesting, "People bring out the phone from their pockets and click a picture without understanding the history of it."
He also knows that some time soon he too will face the same problem. "I don't know if my next generation would be interested in taking this forward or abandon it. Somewhere I am hopeful as they will take care of it because history prepares you for the future."
In this age and day of selfies, groufies, likes, tags and comments, Deorukhakar knows that there is nothing as thrilling as taking that perfect photograph knowing fully well well that on reel, there is no way you can crop and correct the picture.