Classic shots

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By Aditya Arya's collection of antique cameras is a photographer's dream, says Varuni Khosla PIX: ADITYA ARYA AND RUPINDER SHARMA
  • Published 8.10.11


The basement of ace photographer Aditya Arya’s residence-cum-office in Gurgaon is a treasure trove of a different kind. This haven for photographers is made up of a collection of some 110 carefully preserved cameras, brought together over 30 years.

Arya, one of the top names in advertising photography in India, started off as an independent photographer in 1980 after graduating from St Stephens College, Delhi. He created a niche for himself and published books like The Land of the Nagas and The Eternal Ganga. Recently, Arya, 51, published the coffee table memoir, History in the Making: The Visual Archives of Kulwant Roy — a collection of news photographs taken between the 1930s and 1960s.

Graflex Speed Graphic (1912-1968)

Today, he devotes himself full-time to the India Photo Archive Foundation that he set up in 2008. Besides conducting workshops for people interested in analogue cameras, the foundation also restores the photographs and transparencies of photo-journalist Kulwant Roy. The walls in Arya’s basement currently showcase a few of the 10,000 pre-partition photographs, inherited from Roy. One is of Jinnah and Gandhi in a heated discussion.

4A Folding Kodak (1906-1907)

Arya has also been involved in research. “My focus has been on how equipment and technology has evolved in the last 40 years,” he says. Arya’s father introduced him to cameras when he was 15 so he learnt all about folding cameras with metal bodies and imitation leather very early.

Most of the cameras that Arya owns are in working condition but using them proves impractical, as there are no developers available to process the rolls. But for a collector, they’re of much value with some (like the British camera made the company, Thornton-Pickard) costing lakhs.


The cameras in Arya’s possession were purchased or gifted to him. He advertised in newspapers, checked out models and bought the interesting ones. His collection includes brands like Leica, Zeiss, folding Kodaks, the Russian Zorki, Thornton-Pickard and Yashica. Arya admits that the most expensive ones have been gifts and he treasures the Leica the most — gifted by photographer Dinesh Khanna.

The Sinars in his collection hark back to his advertising days. “They cost in lakhs. But today they have no value and have become museum pieces,” he laughs. Sinars, according to him, were “scary”, and having one was like owning a Rolls-Royce.

The Circa by Thornton-Pickard (1890) — it doesn’t have a shutter mechanism — is the oldest piece in his collection. In contrast, the newest is Leica M6 from the 1960s — the classic camera used by top photographers. It’s valued at about Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, he says.


Vest Pocket Kodak (1912-1914)

So, which one is the showstopper? Arya says thoughtfully, “Probably the 1906 model, the 4A Folding Kodak.” Produced for nine years and discontinued in 1915, only 15,000 pieces were made.

Another favourite is the pocket Kodak No. 1 series II, produced between 1922 and 1931. These have played a big role in the evolution of the point-and-shoot camera since the lens folds back into the camera and can stay there with a physical lock. He also has a soft corner for Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic cameras. Small and pocket-friendly, these were used during World War I and manufactured between 1915 and 1926.

Recently, Arya came across a camera that looked exactly like a Leica but was called Zorki. “I found out that the Leica factory in Germany was taken over by Russians who took the moulds and parts of the camera away to Russia. They started manufacturing them there in 1948,” he adds. The Zorki rangefinders were produced in Krasnogorsk, a Moscow suburb.