Tikam, the 19th Century Street Photographer

If you visit Jaipur you'll be sure to walk along Hawa Mahal Road; a bustling street in the Old City that connects the City Palace with the Palace of the Winds and that is located right next to the Johari Bazar, the famous local gold and gemstone markets. This area is a great way to explore architecture, collect souvenirs and experience market life, and as such it's a tourist hotspot that is home to many traders and quirky businesses that speak to the needs of India's many visitors.

One resourceful and innovative entrepreneur has spotted an opportunity within our collective obsession for photography, selfies and photo souvenirs, and has set up on the street with his grandfather's 150(+) year old Zeiss camera. Located just outside of shop 120, near the Jalebi Chowk gate of the City Palace, Mr Tikam Chand offers street photography with a 19th century twist, and will take your portrait with his traditional camera gear and develop the photograph right there on the pavement as he has done for a lifetime. 

Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal Rd, Jaipur)

Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal Rd, Jaipur)

Mr Tikam Chand in his 'office' with his wonderfully decorated Zeiss camera equipment

Mr Tikam Chand in his 'office' with his wonderfully decorated Zeiss camera equipment

He'll ask which size you'd like your picture, small, medium, or slightly bigger, and take your photo after carefully focusing the camera and making sure you're happy with the composition. There's a Krishna god placed on top of the lens that you're asked to smile into, and once taken, it'll take 'a few minutes' (note Indian timing applies) for the final picture to be ready. Using his hands, he'll produce the negative by rubbing his chemicals onto the paper using just his fingers. A bucket on the ground is used to wash the chemicals from the negative once ready.

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At this point, Tikam develops the negative by placing it upside down and taking a photo of it, the effect being that the blacks and whites will invert and the image will reverse, so you end up with a photographic print that you can take home; a negative of the negative. Again Tikam will develop the picture right there on the street, and this almost instant process takes just 10-15 minutes in total. You can even choose how many prints you want, as he can just take more photos of the original negative.

A beautifully unique souvenir, I highly recommend tracking down this guy, if for nothing more than to observe and partake in his creative and rough yet precise and delicate technique. Personally I love the heavy contrast of the prints that he produces, and the classic vintage effect of these instant portrait photographs. 

What a great example of creativity in business, from the idea to the materials, to the old beer bottle that he uses to pour water and clean the photos with. India sure isn't short of surprises or visual inspiration, and I love being able to support characters such as Tikam in their business ventures and creative offerings.

Collaborative self-portrait with Tikam Chand, near shop 120 Hawa Mahal Rd, Jaipur

Collaborative self-portrait with Tikam Chand, near shop 120 Hawa Mahal Rd, Jaipur

Quirky but effective technique to remove chemicals from the print.

Quirky but effective technique to remove chemicals from the print.

Essential equipment.

Essential equipment.

Tikam Chand developing a negative by taking a photo of it.

Tikam Chand developing a negative by taking a photo of it.