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Senior Citizen Photographer

Page Last Updated: May 09, 2017

Bangalore
September 29th, 1999

Dear Vikas,

Kamat writes about his 65th birthday resolution.

Today I turn 65, thus becoming a senior citizen, and I feel that I've reached an important stage in my life. I've never desired power, wealth, or luxury, yet I must say that I have had a very happy and fulfilling life. In the coming years, all I want to do is to remain healthy and work hard. 

This week I've embarked on a new approach to photography. It is possible to do this because of my advancing years. Every day we see so many people and interact with them, yet we do not examine them closely. Each one of these people has his or her unique personality and idiosyncrasies. On most occasions the person in question has not comprehended his or her own uniqueness. It has long been my dream to capture this individuality in my photographs, but it has not been easy to convince strangers to become subjects of photography and obtain their consent. But now that I am a senior citizen, people look at me with much more sympathy and honor my requests more readily. "Can I take a picture?" "I want to finish this reel. Can I take your portrait? I ask them. Most people, rather than refusing, ask me for the purpose of the pictures. If I get to this stage, half the battle is won! "I have been buying vegetables from you for so many years, and I would like to keep your picture." "The people of Mumbai want to know how flowers are sold in Bangalore." "I have taken your friend Seetamma's photo, and I want to take yours."... I have these pre-planned responses ready to use when necessary. When they ask me "Will you give me a copy if I pay you?" it means that they have agreed to let me click! Many a time, if I photograph a woman because of her peculiar looks, she summons her friend, sister, and family, and I have to take their pictures as well. The secondary pictures, although not wanted by me, come in handy for distributing among the subjects of my photographs. I usually show the picture of one professional -- such as a policeman or a cobbler -- to another of same profession, and this seems to work quite well as a ruse. I have clicked hundreds of these pictures in the last few days, but I cannot say that all of them are useful for your website. I am sending just a few of them with this letter. 

Our society is changing at a very rapid pace. I want to document life in India in the 20th century. Many British photographers and artists similarly documented 18th and 19th century India, and today these records and works of art have proved to be a very valuable source of social history. I do not know how much of my dream will come true, but I am trying earnestly to capture these dying moments of the century on film. Only time will tell if I have been successful.

Yours affectionately,
Bappa

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