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India’s only crowdfunded museum showcasing the art and science of photography threw open its doors on September 27. The passionate brainchild of ace photographer and historian Aditya Arya, Museo Camera returned to cement its position as a creative hub for photographers in the national capital region. Most of the cameras on display hail from Arya’s personal collection—one that has been steadily growing for 40 years.
The most striking feature when you walk in? A giant chandelier made of Yashica twin lens reflex cameras. The name might sound unfamiliar to most, as Canon and Nikon DSLRs are the most commonly-sought after model these days, but fret not—a walk through the three levels of this 18,000 sq ft museum will be crash course enough. Covering antique cameras from more than 100 nations, milestones in the visual world, as well as ‘less-glamourous’ aspects like lighting and metering, Museo Camera recognises the need for a holistic education in photography, and is well-equipped to become that starting point.
The ground floor has two archival galleries featuring vintage ‘curiosities’ from the world of photography, including quaint ads, accessories and patents. We particularly loved the photographic timeline here, which not only laid out technical moments like the invention of the cyanotype, but also highlighted the influence of art movements like Dadaism. Also on this level is the Jhatpat studio; Silver Grains, the dark room (named in reference to the light-sensitive emulsion on film—a rare sight these days); and the soon-to-be-opened café ‘Fig at Museo’. As you take the stairs up to the first level, don’t forget to cock your head to the side—every bare surface in the building is covered with equipment traditional and zany—be it cutting-edge lens art, or even well-preserved folding cameras.
Once upstairs, the museum’s clean design allows for sweeping views of the two exhibition galleries and the Daguerre Lecture Hall, with cosy seating spaces thrown into the mix. We liked that so many elements in the museum were named after pioneers or photographic keywords—even the most uninterested child is likely to ask for more information. Thoughtful, and crafty!
The final level is home to the Herschel Lecture Hall (named after the Englishman who invented the blueprint, among other things), a small library, a resource centre, and the Aperture and Shutter Lounges. Why was ISO, part of the holy exposure triangle, left out? We’re not sure, but given that all other bases are so aptly covered, we’ll let it slide. As recent media grads, we have no qualms in admitting that Museo Camera may be doing a better job at youth education than most entry-level photography courses. And their future plans sound just as ambitious.
Walks, workshops and special events shall be curated by an ‘expert panel’, and an artistic residency programme is also in the works. Conservation, restoration and consultancy services will also become a part of the museum’s fabric under the India Photo Archive Foundation, as will a gift shop where visitors can take home one-of-a-kind memorabilia. An immediate gem worth checking out? The Kulwant Roy photo collection, all set to be unveiled on October 2. And yes, you can absolutely take pictures.
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