Neelabh, my best friend from school and my partner at ShaadiGraPher has been an avid film photography lover. He owns multiple film cameras, often shoots with them (except when on commercial shoots such as weddings) and most of the times, develops his own photographs by creating a miniature darkroom in his house. His fridge is full of film-rolls. I often wondered why he cared about film-photography when he could so easily shoot on a digital camera and get the same result? In any case, he was shooting digital anyway. So why care about films? Just an obsession, a hobby? What was it? It wasn’t very clear. What was clear to me was that, very very few people today bothered about film photography. So what exactly was holding back these select few photographers such as Neelabh to the charm of film photography, the old school photography, I could never truly understand.
One fine day, I was discussing with Neelabh the idea of making a documentary on any interesting story that I could find. He suggested I meet the guys at Goa-CAP. What is Goa-CAP, I asked him? CAP stands for Centre for Alternate Photography. These people are film photography lovers and they have been running a community darkroom in Calangute – a centre where all those who are interested in the art of film-processing, can get together and experiment with different processes. There are several different chemical processes to develop a negative into a physical photograph – some even more than 100 years old. And though a lot of info is available online, if you really wanted to try something, you might find it difficult to either get your hands at the right equipment, or the required chemicals or you might realize that the process that you found online, did not yield the desired result, because it was written keeping say Europe’s climate in mind, while you were trying the same in Amchi Mumbai. Goa CAP was helping all these film photography enthusiasts, learn and experiment together.
Neelabh asked me to meet his online friend Edson, one of the three co-founders of Goa-CAP. Edson was responsible for running the community darkroom in Goa. And so I decided to meet him. He could finally help me understand what made people like him and Neelabh still care about film photography even in today’s world of digital camera. Was it because, film-cameras gave better quality or because it made some people feel special – made them feel they were doing something superior that the lowly digital photographers had no clue about? I had several different theories, but I was never really sure, what truly explained the passion of these guys. Passion to still pursue a technology that to me was so clearly obsolete.
After that first meeting with Edson, I hanged around a lot with him and his friend Madhavan – who was the other co-founder of Goa-CAP. And they told their story. And I liked their story. And gradually I came to indeed appreciate the real reason why they still cared about film photography and film processing. At that time, I wasn’t very sure on how to present their story though. I had assumed I would make a 10 to 20 minute documentary but there was so much that they had to say that I found it difficult to put together a nice coherent and most importantly, interesting story. And so the Project went dormant for a long time. I had lengthy footage from my interviews with both Edson and Madhavan – but I did not know how to use them effectively. Until the idea of 3 minute stories occurred. Just like that.
So I went back to the footage that I had, and tried to find the most interesting thing that I could bring out from the hotchpotch of insights that I had gained from these two guys. And there I had – a simply story about why Goa-CAP was doing what it was doing. Which at the same time explained why some people still cared about film photography. And there I had – my first 3 minute story.
I would like to thank Edson and Madhavan for sharing their story and to allow me to shoot footage in their centre (which is presently moving to a different place in Goa and hence is not functional). I would also like to thank the folks experimenting at Goa-CAP who you see in this short-doc (I don’t remember everyone’s names but Sandra, Ajay and Nelvin are three of them – Sandra is an alternate photographer from Mexico who had come down to Goa for a short while; Ajay is a Delhi based painter; and Nelvin is an architect based out of Goa itself). I also thank my wife for helping me connect to a painter friend of her’s – Prerna, and to Prerna for letting me film her at her house, as she worked on her upcoming painting. And for her generous hospitality.
I hope this 3 minute story creates some awareness about what photography really means to some people, especially in today’s digital world when we don’t think beyond seeing and clicking and seeing again. I hope the film photography lovers will like it even more because it strives to explain why they do what they do!