By Mahima Dayal

In the fast paced world of digital photography and instant coffee, finding a wooden box camera on the streets of Hauz Khas is a rare find. News of such a project takes us to an initiative that goes by the name of The Portret Project {TPP}.

The Portret Project is a niche art gallery concept focussing on portraiture as an art form and its radical role in the history of art. They will be looking at how the medium has transformed: from facial and bodily representations in a hypperealistic oil painting to that in video art.

TPP’s most recent venture is the Ego ideal—a ‘social experiment’ they will conduct with a box camera and ‘the layman’s perception of a portrait photo.’ The Ego Ideal will take place at two venues—the first on 23rd November at Haus Khas Village, opposite Ole´Couture, and the second on 26th November at IIT bus stop, in front of the Hauz Khas post office. They tell us – “We will take photographs of passers-by, local vendors and so on to understand an individuals ego ideal or  idealistic image of oneself.”

Their curatorial team has sourced an antique box camera, which does not have a shutter, but relies on the rate at which the artist removes the lens cap and shouts, “Ready!” and then shuts it after almost a second to allow ample light to hit the lens. The structure of the camera itself sounds interesting – a lens to capture the present, perched atop a rickety looking, yet stable wooden tripod, with an in built dark room attached at the back, covered in tattered black leather. The aperture for this camera needs to be adjusted with the brass bracket around the lens; what’s also intriguing is the process following producing the negative – it’s slightly scientific, fairly technical, absolutely riveting.

What they’ve also added as a part of this project is hand tinting the images that are shot. This art of hand tinting displayed in the box camera began in the 1840s, when artists first brushed colored oils on sepia-toned daguerreotypes. Most often, colouring was limited to a hint of shading on the lips and cheeks. The more artistic tinting artists would color hair, clothing, flowers and even add metallic highlights for jewelry.

With the onset of digital photography and Photoshop, traditional and old-school methods like these have clearly taken a back seat, and this is exactly what this particular project aims to bring to the forefront. “For us, the element of human error is what makes this project particularly exciting!”


Notes in our Little Black Book |

Find out more about the Project here 

Check out their website here

When & Where | 23rd November at Haus Khas Village, opposite Ole´ Couture, and on 26th November at IIT bus stop, in front of the Hauz Khas post office.