NEW AMSTERDAM, BERBICE – The pioneers of photography in Berbice, the Rambarrans, proprietors of the oldest photo studio in Ancient County, and perhaps one of the oldest in these parts of the Caribbean, held an exhibition of antique cameras and photographs which dated back to over one hundred years ago, in celebration of World Camera Day yesterday.
The first cameras were used in the 15th Century—a dark box with a pinhole at one end and a glass screen at the other. When light shun through the pinhole an image appeared on the screen. The first photograph was taken in 1814 using a sliding wooden box camera. The photograph disappeared after a few minutes as it was not permanent. The first cameras were very large in size and took up much room space, but these have become smaller and smaller over the years. The first film camera, a Kodak camera went on sale in 1888. This paved the way for the 35mm film cameras we all know and used years ago. Then there were the instant cameras. These came on the scene via Polaroid in 1948.
David Rambarran (late) opened Berbice’s first photo studio in 1947. He became known as the pioneer in still photography. On display at the exhibition were Polaroid cameras from the early 1970s. But probably the oldest camera on display was the pinhole camera. It required the use of no battery, as even batteries were not available then. The entire casing of this camera was made of wood. A black cloth was used by the photographer, under which he would place his head and take the picture.
Speaking with Kaieteur News, photographer and son of the founder, Tony Rambarran stated that there was a mechanism in the pinhole camera which allowed it to capture photographs. He said that there have been advanced models of Polaroid cameras since. He posited that photography today has become ten times more advanced; the lenses have become more improved and there are one touch zooms.
He related to this newspaper that the industry has become so technology-driven that Kodak has stopped making 35mm films, even though a few other companies still manufacture analogue camera films. This has fuelled the purchase of a variety of digital cameras on the market today. Digital photography evolved in the 1960s. These cameras do not use films rather they capture the film and store it on digital memory cards. Digital cameras became commercially available in 1990. In Guyana, we have seen the gradual phasing out of the analogue film cameras and an influx of digital cameras on the market.
Today, practically everyone has a camera, whether it is a phone camera or digital camera. More and more persons are engaging in the exciting field of photography. Photographs have allowed human beings to capture important moments so that generations of people after can still see them. Photography is an essential element in the world today. News organizations worldwide, like this newspaper, would know too well the value and import a single photograph can have with regards to a story or issue.
Numerous persons, students, members of the community, media operatives and yes, photographers, perused the outdoor exhibition and viewed the hundreds of photographs which were preserved in the Dave’s Portrait Studio archives from decades ago. Photography and its rich history, preserved by people like the Rambarrans through the years, can truly attest to the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words—perhaps much more. (Leon Suseran)
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