Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Memories of Vidhana Soudha through these lens men

Memories of Vidhana Soudha through these lens men
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: Vidhana Soudha is a must-see place in the itinerary of most visitors to the city. The sprawling building oozes grandeur and overlooks a dignified red building.

The setting reminds one of an Indian king looking down upon colonial remnants. A cursory glance around the place can get the visitor a glimpse of the present rulers of Karnataka.

Vying for attention amidst all the grandeur and dignitaries are lensmen with cameras hanging from their necks like ID cards.

Photographers Srinivas, Lokesha, Somashekar and others gift the visitors memories of the permanent kind. But more importantly they also give the visitors magic, a face peeping out of the dome of the Vidhan Soudha.

A piece of paper that captures them with the High Court looming in the background.

And this piece of memory is on sale for Rs 30 and delivered in a couple of hours. But if you have a train to catch, then the photographers are happy to mail them to you. Not the e-way but through India Post.

These photographers have not learnt their skills from any institute but directly on the field. They cannot afford any sophisticated software to give the finishing touches on photo shop but rely on inexpensive filters and cameras purchased from Gandhi Nagar.

The trade has been passed on through generations though none among them knows who started it all. But, most of them acknowledge that it is a trade practised in the family, village and friends.

They have grown bigger and more organised from where they started off. They now have a union of their own, but recognition is awaited. Says Somashekar: “You need a licence in order to click photographs here and inside the Cubbon Park. But when they started issuing licences indiscriminately, we hired a lawyer and won a stay order. As a result, no new licence has been issued during the past six years.”

The number of photographers have been stagnant at 30 for six years, but even they don’t get sufficient work. “In the beginning visitors were allowed on the premises of Vidhana Soudha. So we used to assign ourselves places such that we were well spread out. There was no trespass into each other’s business. But due to security reasons they don’t allow visitors inside anymore. So, as you can see, we are all on the road,” chuckles Srinivas.

He is not exaggerating. On the small stretch in front of Vidhana Soudha one can see all the thirty photographers jostling for space and attention. Quarrels break out very often. But ask them about it and they close ranks. Says Somashekar: “It is normal for some misunderstanding to erupt. But we do not fight. If we are not together then we cannot survive here.”

For all the toil and marketing skills they earn about Rs 150 on an average day and Rs 300 if it is a habba. With no other skills and mouths to feed, survival of the fittest has become a harsh reality for them.


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