Mobile Phone Memories

Eyes of my Lover

Eyes of my lover. A mobile phone photograph. Christmas Eve. Mumbai, December 2011. © Nishant Ratnakar

It was some ten to fifteen years ago, that I saw a mobile phone for the first time in my life. My dad had made his prized purchase – a huge handset (unsure if it was a Nokia or a Panasonic device) with a prepaid mobile phone connection. It not only had the ability of making and receiving phone calls, but it could also be used to send and receive text messages! It kind of made Pagers obsolete overnight. (But, I still think pagers were cool)

Strange times they were. Mobile phone call rates in India were too expensive. I recollect that it was 8 Indian Rupees (INR) per minute for outgoing calls, and 4 INR for incoming calls (Yes, incoming calls weren’t free then!). Any caller who dialed dad’s phone number by mistake would face his wrath for sure!

Things changed drastically over the next twenty years. We are in the era of touch screens where my Blackberry curve 3G phone with a QWERTY keypad looks terribly outdated. But, the Blackberry Messenger in it, serves the purpose of keeping in touch with loved ones(Note: I can keep in touch, but I can’t really touch).

But, one of the important innovations that took place in mobile telephony was the addition of cameras to mobile devices. In the history of photography this was a landmark moment that led to greater democratization of the craft. Entry level barriers to owning a camera and practicing the craft, were brought down. Everybody who had access to a mobile phone  could now visually capture a slice out of their daily life and from their surroundings.

Not only did this technological innovation bring down the costs of owning a camera,  but it also meant that cameras shrunk in size. Instead of carrying bulky camera bodies, one could have a camera that fits the size of the palm of their hands. Today, at any given street there will be a camera in the pocket of every individual passing there. Wow! everyone can tell a story from their perspective.

Over the last years, I have traveled far and near to take time off from work. And I have intentionally left my bulky cameras behind. The idea was to unwind and soak in to surroundings, to learn new things, meet new people, and devote time to family and friends. But, the ‘hunter’ in me couldn’t be left at home.

I am a sucker for story-telling images. The more personal and intimate it gets, the better it is for me. I get a high out of daily life. With such an insane mind, could I stop from making images that I found a strong connection with? No way!

My mobile phones were my finest companions during all my travels. Earlier it used to be a Nokia 5800 MusicXpress. Then came the Blackberry curve 3G. They didn’t have great cameras when compared of many other phones of the day. The images from them seemed to be blurry and most of the time they appeared to be out of focus. Maybe that’s life – a lot of things in life are unclear and lack focus…

Together the two mobile phones became a tool for creating a personal visual journal. A large part of this journal is scattered across the web and in tiny memory cards. This journal doesn’t stop. It continues almost every other day as life gives plenty of moments that soak in. As per the world of jargon in photography, you can call it an ongoing personal project! Now and then, a leaf out of this journal surfaces on my Facebook album.

As the new year dawns, I look back into the bygone years through my mobile phone memories. They remind me of all the good times I’ve had, the people I’ve lost, and the people I’ve found. It seems like a jigsaw puzzle where I am putting together the pieces to see where I was, where I am now, and to where I’ve longed to go to.

Here, I’ve tried to collect and share some of the images from my mobile phone journal. Some are abstract, while some are what they seemed to be. Some of them have little captions and some have none.

Wishing everybody a very happy new year.  Let the year 2012 be filled with joy and prosperity.

P.S: Plan to create a mosaic/collage  out of some of these mobile phone memories and make prints on fine-art paper. stay tuned for updates on it.

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  • Karthik

    I suppose it was in 2000 that your dad got a cell phone.

    • Anonymous

      No Karthik. It was much earlier. I was still in school.

  • Pkrathnakara

    Karthik is right, it was during 2000 when I was in Yeshwanthpur.