In wood and leather, the Royal Mail Postage Stamp Camera dates back to 1907. It can click 15 stamp-size photographs at a time, reveals Dilish Parekh. The Mumbai-based camera collector recalls purchasing it from the city’s Chor Bazaar 15 years ago. “It’s very rare,” he beams, talking about his collection of over 4,425 cameras. Of these, 40 are travelling to Delhi as part of a two-day exhibition at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, which begins today.
Being exhibited alongside 27 select photographs of Henri Cartier Bresson, the event marks the celebration of World Photography Day.
Parekh’s exhibits include a 1960s Rolliflex camera and a panoramic camera from the 1940s. The 1934-made Leica 250 is a rare antique, since only 1,000 of them were produced. “There are seven pieces remaining in the world,” says the 61-year-old.
The former photojournalist inherited the hobby from his grandfather, who bequeathed him 600 cameras over 40 years ago. Parekh has added to the collection, sourcing cameras from flea markets, old studios, connoisseurs and even through advertisements in newspapers. “I have bought cameras from Kerala to Srinagar. Ten years ago, I was holidaying in Kashmir and came back with 100 cameras. For some people, they are mere pieces of junk,” says Parekh.
Over the years the worth of each camera has increased significantly, and that most of them are now unavailable only makes the collection singular. Parekh pulls out a Bessa II, manufactured in 1962 by Voigtlander, one of Germany’s oldest optical concerns. “It is significant because it was used by the royal family of Japan,” he says. There are also remnants of war — a huge metal camera used during World War II. “It was tied to the base of the aircraft with a string. The string would be pulled by the person on the other end to take a photograph of the enemy area,” says Parekh, who purchased it from the Deolali cantonment in Maharashtra. The Guinness World Record holder for the largest camera collection in the world, now has people approaching him with their possessions. “They contact me if they feel they have a rare camera that might interest me,” says Parekh.
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The exhibition is on till tomorrow at IGNCA, Media Centre Foyer Area, 3, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road.