Saturday Night Conversations : Meghana Kulkarni
Probably as a photographer one of the most common question asked is “what camera do you use”. Tools, never considered worthy enough to make a conversation in other forms of art, seem to be considered of paramount importance. Maybe that is why in one of her articles, Ayn Rand wrote that photography is not a form of art, its a technical skill.
So this week, stepping beyond the ordinary tools which have given photography the bad name of a technical skill, we step into the light of pure creation. Where photography is not through a tool but through the ideas boxed with light. Tonight we talk to DraconianRain AKA Meghana who has been making cameras and designing lenses at home for some time now.
A. Its really the most tricky question. Ever since I started using my little BenQ digital camera and my SLR in college, I never shot on auto mode. Instead I tried to experiment with all the controls and functions leading to messed up shots. The main thought was “why do something that’s been done already”. I wanted to see something new in my world, through a new perspective.
Another reason probably is that I believe in low tech living. Spending so much on buying more and more equipment somehow was never possible and didn’t seem right either. You see, architects are poor people. So I just decided to try out things for myself.
Q. So till now what all have you been able to design and engineer at home related to photography?
A. I’ve designed a Macro filter, a lens baby, a fish eye lens attachment, a 250mm prime (not very great, but it works!), pinhole cameras, camera straps, and a fabricated battery for an old camera. Apart from that, I’ve also made a shuttle box film apparatus for a home film scanning method.
Q. Would you consider yourself as a photographer or as a machinist?
A. I am a big fan of Le Corbusier, (the Architect who designed Notre Dame Du Haut Ronchamp and the city of Chandigarh with its grand capitol complex) He once said a building is a machine to live in. This was not because the building has to function like a machine, but the process of design and building should be like a machine would have. the end product has to be sensitive to the context and aesthetic. I think I’ll describe my photography as that. In order to achieve this aesthetic, i am a machinist.
A. To be honest, when I was asked to present my DIYs in Bangalore, I was a bit surprised. I wondered why anyone would want to know about home made alternate lenses. Everyone these days is so obsessed with equipment and technique. I’ve had people who seen my lenses, but not really understanding ‘what’ or ‘why’.
Even as I begun speaking at the venue, I was skeptical of the reactions of the audience. But I was totally taken by surprise. As I was presenting, I could see that everyone was thrilled with finding out ways and means of making their own equipment for almost no cost. Some people also admitted that they keep buying so much high end equipment that this thought never occurs to them.
Maybe its not even about whether one can afford expensive equipment, but the spirit of exploring cameras and their lenses that really caught on. There were a lot of young people and that was most encouraging to see. Maybe not everyone will actually make their own equipment, but even if a few did, I’d say that it’s a job well done. It got everyone to think of what can be done on our own not just in photography, but life in general.
A lot of people came up to encourage me personally, and that inspires me further. I think it’s a give and take. I want my research to proliferate amongst more people and I hope someone takes up from where I left it.
Q. If you were to pick out one of your best DIY results, which one would that be?
As of now, I think the best photos shot through my homemade equipment have come from the homemade lens baby. I’ve extensively used it in all situations and lighting conditions and realized that its the best lens for low light, night scenes especially with lights in the backgrounds. Using custom aperture with the lens gives me these amazing portraits with interesting bokeh shapes in the background.