Visiting Sekar’s house feels like entering a museum. Rows of vintage cameras welcome visitors to his home on Pycrofts Road, Triplicane. The story behind his love for cameras dates back to 35 years ago; the time he reached Chennai armed with a diploma in electronics. “I was working as a mechanic here and I realised that there are many people who could repair TVs, VCRs, and refrigerators, but very few when it comes to cameras. That’s when I decided to become a camera mechanic,” says C Sekar, who is known as ‘Camera Sekar’ in his locality.
That triggered his desire to collect cameras, and the result can be seen in his house. He has about 4,000 cameras ranging from movie cameras and underwater cameras to flash cameras. The collection also includes lenses that are made of different materials like brass and glass. “In the olden days, cameras were not integrated like the ones we use now. There were separate exposure meters. Also, cameras then did not use solar cells and were not battery operated. I conducted my first exhibition in 2000 at the Nandambakkam Trade Centre, with about ten cameras,” recalls Sekar. In 2004, he conducted his second exhibition and he realised that there are many enthusiastic people out there who like to view and study vintage cameras. “The number of cameras grew overtime and I had to safely store them, so I started arranging them in my house. Slowly, the collection occupied one half of my house. That was when I named my home ‘Camera House’,” he says.
Each camera has a story. Former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran’s vintage camera is also under his possession. “It was very difficult to access MGR’s cameras and I struggled for about ten years to get permission from the concerned authority, and also to raise enough money to finally get my hands on it,” says Sekar. His collections also include LV Prasad studio’s movie camera, Swadesh Mithra magazine’s chief photographer’s camera, and more importantly a three-lens camera that was used during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. “The one used during the war was a Bell & Howell camera which was sourced from the US. This camera is operated using a key and was the only preferable option to shoot at such high altitudes,” he explains.
Sekar has travelled all over India for the past 35 years to enrich his camera collection. He also has cameras from different countries like London, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. “I have cameras that are as old as 200 years and many students come here to study them as well as learn different things like dark room enlarger, bulbs, lighting, and film roller,” he says.
Sekar’s future plan is to make a mini museum out of his collection, but the goal seems distant. “I wish I would receive some sort of financial support to materialise this. I will never sell my cameras at any cost, as I have spent half of my life collecting these. But, I have come to a stage where I can no longer take care of them, as I live in a rented house. I would only give them away if it serves an educational purpose and not commercial, as I want more students to be benefited from this,” he says on a concluding note....