Each time I've come to Jaipur I've had one thing on my to-do list: to get photographed on the street. And yet I hadn't.
Several years ago I read about Tikam Chand, a photographer with a 1860s wooden box camera who sets up a simple photo studio daily on the sidewalk in Jaipur’s Old City. I've been obsessed with the idea of it since.
The studio location just down the road from Jaipur's honeycomb Hawa Mahal hasn’t changed since his father and his grandfather were the ones behind the camera. Tikam Chand has been here for the past 18 years.
He smiles widely and calls out “One minute madam..” as I walk in his direction. I don’t need any convincing, I’ve been waiting for this for five years. His prints are available in three sizes. I choose the largest for Rs 300.
He lets me examine the camera, shows me what he sees inside, basically the subject upside down. He positions me on a stool based on his focal length and insists I don’t move. There is no shutter release, he removes the cap from the gorgeous Carl Zeiss lens for two counts and puts it back on.
The box camera has an inbuilt darkroom and the first step is producing a negative, which is rinsed with chemicals and then given a water bath. He affixes the negative to a board and photographs it to produce the final image.
The end result is the perfect keepsake. A stunning portrait that looks as old as the camera itself. If you’re in Jaipur, I couldn’t recommend it more.
Note: An easy and worthy landmark for finding Tikam Chand is Pandit Kulfi, which sells ridiculously creamy, delicious kulfi. Tikam Chand can be found a block away in the direction of Hawa Mahal.