Aditya Arya

Aditya Arya Museo Camera

Museo Camera is a modern museum that celebrates both the art and science of photography. It is a space that will have on display antique cameras from over 100 countries, photographic equipment down the ages, historical archives, the works of legends as well as cutting edge contemporary lens based art. It is a a centre where the young and old, amateurs and aficionados, visitors and tourists will have the rare opportunity to learn and experience the magic of photography, and through it, to explore the arts, ideas and issues of our time.

Museo Camera is the result of the coming together of two major government bodies and The India Photo Archive Foundation [IPAF]. Together they seek to make Museo Camera a symbol of excellence and emerge as a place for learning. ‘Above all, the intent is to create a self sustaining model to further the aims and objectives of Museo Camera,’ says Aditya Arya, the man behind the fabulous initiative and a celebrated photographer. We connected with him to know more about the project and how challenging it was to raise funds.  

Let’s go back in time—when did your romance with photography begin?
It’s been my great love for almost 40 years now—the art of photography. The science of image-making. The endless possibilities that technological changes have brought [and taken away from] us. Many from my generation who started off as diehard analogue buffs have had a long and exciting journey traversing from silver grains to storage devices, film rolls to memory cards, and formats measured in millimetres to images described in megapixels.

But along the way, I also started exploring the world of photography beyond and before us…through the iconic photo archive of the eminent Kulwant Roy, which took me into the world of archiving and digitisation, not to mention, the history of the photographic image. Today, I also have a personal collection of 1500 antique cameras and other allied gadgets dating back to the 1860s, collected from over 100 countries.

It has been my dream that all this, and much more, should come together as a museum and centre for the photographic arts. Right here, in India, in the National Capital Region. And believe it or not, it really is happening.

“I belong to the analog times and having tested the bits and bytes of the digital world. I am always pining to get back to the silver grains of the analog times.”

How did the concept of setting up space to house the history of photography come about?
I belong to the analog times and having tested the bits and bytes of the digital world. I am always pining to get back to the silver grains of the analog times.

My generation is witness to the transitory journey from the analog to the digital and is a bridge connecting the two. Being at such a critical juncture and having seen and experienced such technological change, I feel it is my responsibility to pass on some of those experiences to the born digital generations that have missed out on the beauty of the analog times.  

Photography in the analog times was all about pre-visualisation and it was pre-meditated. Today’s millennial generation is in a great hurry and they are supported and assisted by the technology of the times. Today’s technology depends a lot on the delete button. Analog photography does not allow the creator to revert and make a change but with the digital era, people can go back to editing, redoing and touching up images.

Tell us about the museum—what all does it have space for?
Museo Camera has been created on the principle of creating shared knowledge. Hence, through workshops and courses, it will teach the history of photographic processes and their evolution, and will enhance that learning with practical sessions on basics of the Cyanotype, Albumen, Salt printing process and Wet Plate Photography. Teaching will be aimed at various levels of participants – beginners, enthusiasts, professional archivists, etc – and include teaching printing on hand-coated paper, making Glass Plate Negatives using 100 year old antique cameras, mixing light-sensitive chemistry, as well as how to sensitize, expose, and process the photographic image. 

“Today’s millennial generation is in a great hurry and they are supported and assisted by the technology of the times. Today’s technology depends a lot on the delete button.”

What are the different activities that have been planned at the museum?
Museo Camera will be a place of confluence – where fun, learning, teaching, research discovery, all come together. Through exhibitions, school and college workshops and public programs, it will fulfill its primary mission of teaching and educating the young and the old in the science and technology, the art and aesthetics of the photographic image.

How challenging has it been to raise funds?
In our country people donate very liberally to temple and other religious institutions, but unfortunately the idea of creating a cultural place doesn’t sell too easily.

But I don’t believe in giving up easily. I am reaching out to individuals and corporate, inviting them to contribute in creating this fabulous museum and leave a legacy behind.

Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani