I was recently in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I visited an area called Al Batha. This area is very popular among labourers and the working class, especially among people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines. You can find anything here from mobile phones to fruits. Visiting this place on a Friday is a spectacle as hoards of labourers and workers come in from all parts of the country to buy goods for the rest of the week and also to send money back home from one of the many money exchanges around the area.
While walking through a narrow alley in Al Batha, I came across a couple of old cameras on display outside of this shop called Kamera world. When I went in, I found old Nikons, Minoltas, Konicas and even some very old Polaroid cameras, like the one below.
This camera was designed to shoot portraits in studios so each polaroid would have 4 photos which can then be cut out to use as passport photos. The man who sold me this camera has been selling cameras at that same shop for 40 years. He moved from Pakistan right after he graduated college and used to collect and sell cameras to people who used to fly in from countries like Germany and the U.S. His collection of these old cameras has slowly diminished as the market has changed and people now want digital cameras.
Mr Anwar and I talked for almost an hour and what struck me was his passion for photography. Here is a man who has seen the industry change in front of him. Mr. Anwar started his career fixing radios back in the 70s and eventually started fixing and selling cameras. He started selling film cameras back then and has recently seen the shift from people buying film cameras to now buying digital cameras.
After I agreed to buy this camera from him, he took the time to show me what kind of film to use, and how to setup and install the camera as well. He even threw in a free flash to help me shoot portraits in low light conditions. He felt like the sort of person who genuinely wanted the camera to be taken care of and used properly. He had countless stories of the different people he met while selling cameras and also about all the weird cameras he’s come across.
It’s sad to see that film photography is getting closer to being wiped out. With the trend these days to shift towards digital photography, film photography is just going to get more expensive to pursue and maintain. It’s an art form that I personally hope to see for a few more decades.
If you’d like to visit the store yourself, ask around for “Kamera World” in Al Batha, or you can call Mr. Anwar at 050 2921170 or 4038672.