This now, is Part 2 of 2 of ‘My First Love’.
Many years back, when I started to take pictures, we did not have digital cameras and so we did not peer at the back of the camera to look at histograms and other such things. I started doing black and white photography because I was a lowly paid engineer in a steel mill. I could not afford to have colour film processed. Neither could I afford to buy all the warming and cooling filters that you needed for colour film.
However, as I slowly got into it, I realised what a fantastic medium it is, and fell completely in love with it. When I moved on to do my MBA, I proposed that we set up a darkroom, which I took charge of. Apart from doing my own stuff, I used to photograph all college events and process the shots. I scoured the markets of Bangalore (now called by that strange name – Bengaluru) for chemicals, papers and darkroom equipment. I often spent nights in the darkroom, and looking back, I wonder how I passed through my MBA with creditable grades!
I also had a bunch of paintbrushes. After starting my initial experiments with sepia and other toning, I decided to experiment with selective toning. So, I would ‘paint’ the chemical onto the print with paint brushes. Each such print could take me almost two hours to do, or more (if it required fine painting), as I had to ensure that the chemical did not run over onto unintended areas.
Nowadays, we do have the magic of Photoshop and plug-ins. They are truly exciting. However, from the perspective of one who has processed his own film, I can honestly say that nothing in Photoshop beats the sheer excitement of seeing your print slowly come to life. It is truly, as Ansel Adams is once supposed to have said, like a symphony.
In Bombay, later, I used to have my film processed at the Mitter Bedi studio. In Shanghai at one shop on MaoMing Bei Lu, in Singapore at one shop in Peninsula Plaza, and now in Delhi at one shop called SV Photographics. There are very, very few people who process B&W film here in Asia.
I now shoot in film again. It is exciting. It exacts a discipline that I find exhilarating. It is fun. It is true love!
You shall slowly start to see some of this work in the near future. Let’s see if you like it.
You never ever do forget your first, true love…