Colourful tales from the darkroom: The story of Satyajit CP
As a little boy, his father’s camera intrigued him. From not knowing how to load the film, he is now one of the few analogue photographers with his own darkroom in the city. Born to eminent Bharatanatyam artistes, the Dhananjayans, Satyajit CP’s journey of becoming a photographer from being a Bharatanatyam dancer is quite a tale. His random encounter with his father’s analogue camera is the beginning of the story of this analogue photographer in the digital age.
“My first film roll consists of pictures of sunlight through the coconut leaves and photos of my father. Curiosity is what drove me and that soon developed into a hobby. The photography projects assigned by my school gave me a lot of practice and exposure,” says Satyajit about his life in 1999; when it all began. He would have just been a photographer if his father had not prompted him to learn ‘photo kazhuvardhu’ meaning to develop films. With some assistance from V Karthick, a photographer, he set up his lab and set foot in the world of photography.
With digital cameras replacing films around 2004, Satyajit had to take up digital to fulfil his client’s needs as a commercial photographer. He has worked in areas such as automotive, lifestyle, interiors, food and many more with his client list ranging from Honda, Ashok Leyland, TVS Motors, and Lexus. Talking about his comeback to analogue, he says, “Six years ago, there was a resurgence in film photography around the world. After playing around with digital cameras for so long, I felt my quickness and observation skills got lost and that’s when I had the idea of going back to film photography.”
His thorough efforts to start a community darkroom, that is open to the public, started around 2017. He along with his friend got hold of some good equipment from people who were selling and by the end of 2019, he had his darkroom. But his motive to offer services to people went in vain because of COVID. As things now are returning back to normal, he hopes to encourage and encounter like-minded people.
Though his past projects such as ‘Heavenly Bodies’ were done through the digital camera, he henceforth wants to use the analogue camera for all his projects. “I’m working in collaboration with an artist where we are trying to put together an exhibition which is an amalgamation of visuals. It’s not just a photography or art exhibition. It’s going to be a unique project where he might do some artwork over my photos,” he says on his future projects.
As digital has made everything instant, he considers that there is little time to build a relationship with the photos. “Film developing is a long process and, in that process, you develop multiple layers of relationship. The time that has gone through does something to the relationship,” he adds. “I can’t write a thousand words but I can frame a picture that says 1000 words,” says Satyajit CP to whom photography is an extension of a way of expression.