Walking past metro cinema towards Chowringhee, one cannot ignore the first street to the right. It greets everyone with bright green flags fluttering overhead and crowds of cheerful people, while occasionally startling the passersby with “dada ektu dekhi” of tired labourers carrying fresh, clean pieces of glass to the other end of the street. Given the purpose we know metro gully for, both the ends of the street defy it’s inside story. While one end greets with a plethora of multicoloured shoes merging into glazing winter wear, hundreds of mirrors form the glass market at the other end meets you with multiple reflections of yourself. At the heart of the street is where the ‘machines to freeze time’ are sold – Welcome to Metro Gully, the camera market of Kolkata.
Every minute is a rush hour for this place. More than 25 shops, big or small cater to thousands of problems related to camera and its accessories. The people here are quite receptive to the continuous upgradation of technology over the passing years.
“There was a time when I loved to wash the film with my own bare hands; today I even enjoy the luxury of a laptop and an SD Card. It’s all about how you experience it”, the owner of Fotolites, one of the first shops at the street.
What is of essence is that the place boasts of camera stores as old as 40 years. This street, also known as ‘The Camera Para’ was initiated by 3 shops, 2 of which have lost the battle against time but M.M. Photographic Store still stands as a tough competitor in the business.
The owner of M.S. Photographics, a 25 year old shop in Metro Gully, tells me with bright eyes how sitting behind the same counter for over two decades has been an experience of a lifetime for him. “I have seen shops opening up around mine and some permanently closing too. This is a business where the only key to thrive is to be honest to your products and be more learned than your customer, in technical aspects of course.”For someone who finds Metro Gully his ‘’kind of a place’’, it is hard to tame the desires while walking past the arrays of accessories and equipments which range from impressive to astonishing.
Metro Gully is like a pilgrimage site for all photographers. This is the only place in Kolkata where you can find Table top dolly, sliding scale camera mount, flexible tripods, small tripods for short range shots at small heights, head worn light rigs (requires no light man for the camera operator), different sorts of fish eye lenses, sometimes, all under the same roof.
Through The Lens
There are old stores like Rational Photographics and M.M. Photographics for 360 degree camera solutions. These stores have evolved with time, M.M. Photographics is over two decades old, and anyone can find solutions to all sorts of camera problems irrespective of camera model and year of make. Otherwise, most of the shops cater to more specialised departments of camera and photography.
Tricks of the trade
Although Metro Gully is equipped with cameras and accessories just like (and sometimes better than) any branded camera store in the city, you may have to weed out a lot of posers to get to the real deal. The key steps for buying the right camera and accessories from Metro Gully include-
- Identifying Requirements – Try to figure out what you need the device for. It is understandable that wedding photographers and wildlife photographers will need different kinds of camera lenses.
- Zeroing In On Model – Know the requirements for a model, what is the maintenance, what kind of connectivity it supports etc before buying a model. Exchanging is not looked upon favourably by the shopkeepers here that we can say for sure!
- Researching The Price – This can be done online or from brochures which you can pick up from any Sony, Nikon or Canon store. The prices at Metro Gully are always negotiable to a pocket friendly level.
- Accessories And Add-ons – Know your camera model right before going to Metro Gully. Not all accessories are universal and you cannot always expect the shop owners to guess the model right from your vivid essay-esque description of your dear cameras!
Metro Gully also has a boisterous second hand market but this is for the true Bravehearts who know their cameras, lenses and other accessories inside out. We do not dare venture into its depths, so readers, only dive in if you are daring enough!