Are analogue cameras making a big comeback in the Capital?
With an uptick in sales, it appears that there is a revival of the old-fashioned cameras, primarily as an art form
Satish Luthra, who runs S V Photographic, a photo lab in Delhi’s Chittaranjan Park, is pleasantly surprised by the sudden upswing in the number of 35 mm photographic films that he gets for processing from photographers. The number, he says, has more than tripled in the past couple of years.
“Now on average, we process over 200 films (35 mm and 120 mm) a month, and this number is increasing every month. Most of these films come from young budding photographers,” says Luthra, whose lab is one of the few in the country still doing darkroom film processing and printing.
After vinyl and typewriters, film photography is staging a comeback, with an increasing number of young photographers and armatures preferring to shoot the old-fashioned way. And the photo labs like Luthra’s that still have dark rooms are busier than they have been in the past decade. Besides, iconic companies such as Ilford and Kodak have launched several old and new analogue photography products, including films and cameras, pointing to a surge in the popularity of film photography in this digital age.
“Indeed, analogue photography is witnessing a revival as an art form. There is a huge demand for our darkroom workshops, and most are attended by young photographers wanting to experience the romance of analogue photography. Unlike digital photography, film photography involves a lot of unpredictability. One must think before every click as there are only a limited number of exposures available on the film roll. It triggers your creativity,” says Aditya Arya, a well-known photographer and founder of Museo Camera, a museum of photographic arts in Gurgaon. In the past year, the museum has trained over 200 young photographers in its well-equipped dark darkroom, which boasts half a dozen Durst enlargers, several Jobo processors, safe lights, and a range of chemicals. “Darkroom is a space where art meets science, ” says Arya.
Kodak, one of the most iconic and innovative companies of all time, which invented film, the pocket camera, and the digital camera, has, in the last few years, relaunched many of its popular films, which it discontinued due to a lack of demand. In fact, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2012, but a year later, it emerged a leaner company.
In March 2022, Kodak launched Gold 200 film in a new 120 format. In 2018, it re-launched its Ektachrome film, to meet the rising demand for 35 mm colour transparency films, a move that delighted photographers across the world. “Today, almost every film that a professional film photographer needs is readily available in the market. Till a few years back, it was hard to get them, ” says Arya.
Kodak and Ilford Photo, another iconic photo company, have in the past few years, launched analogue cameras for beginners and several darkroom photography products.
“The sale of films has been growing at 20% in the past three years,” says Radhakrishnan Vijayakumar, founder and CEO, of Srishti Digilife, one of the biggest imaging equipment and accessories marketing firms. “In 2019, we sold about 8000 new Kodak and Ilford analogue cameras, with a 100% growth over the previous year. This year we have already sold over 9,500 cameras in just 6 months,” he adds.
Vijayakumar says that boosting the sale of analogue photography products is the fact that a lot of photographers are now setting up the darkroom at their homes. One such photographer is Delhi-based Ajay Shankar, renowned for his film noir black &white portrait photography. “A lot of photographers are setting up their own darkrooms at homes as there are not many labs doing darkroom processing,” says Shankar, whose family also owns Delhi Photo Co, an iconic photo studio in Delhi. “Developing film and printing your photos in red light in a darkroom is a very intimate, creative, and meditative process. A lot of young photographers realise this. Many are approaching me for lessons in darkroom photography,” says Shankar, who is currently in the process of setting up a dark room in Shahpur Jat to train young photographers.
Last year, Ilford launched what it calls Ilford Pop-up Darkroom, for photographers who may not have a suitable space at home to create a dark room. The pop-up darkroom is essentially a foldable 2.2-meter tent that comes in a carry bag. It is big enough for a person to stand in and put in a table for an enlarger and printing trays. “ There is such a huge demand globally for these pop-up rooms that despite placing order months back, we have not got the delivery yet,” says Vijayakumar.
In Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, which has one of India’s biggest camera markets, Kapil Indrjeet Vohra, a well-known vintage camera mechanic, is busy fixing all kinds of old analogue cameras.
“Three years back I used to get about 2 analogue cameras for repair in a month. Today I get at least 25 in a month. Many amateur photographers dust off their fathers’ and grandfather’s SLRs and point-and-shoot film cameras. While many want to experience film photography, others want to repair and sell them as demand for them is increasing exponentially,” says Vohra.