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There are Cameras but No Action, Life is Still for Lawrence Wilson

Camera collector Lawrence Wilson at IFFI 2019.

Camera collector Lawrence Wilson at IFFI 2019.

Lawrence Wilson can’t focus through the lens the way he used to some years ago. It seems he judges the functioning of a camera by how smooth its noise is.

While walking inside the International Film Festival of India venue in Goa, you must have met an elderly man dressed as old world film projectionists. He is Lawrence Wilson, a camera collector with immense love for the visual medium, so much so that he spent his entire life in preserving a legacy for the generations to come.

From the rare 16mm film cameras to the big ones used by the visionary showmen of the showbiz, he has got it all, and most of them are in working condition, thanks to his care and a big chunk of money. He has been doing it for long but it’s not been an easy ride.

Wilson says, “This was my hobby since childhood. I have organised shows in small villages and schools. The charm went down after TV came into existence, but now everyone has moved on to digital. I have collected these in different cities. Sometimes film people donated the non-working ones.”

His enthusiasm of making the stall visitors understand the value of a camera in creating memories is infectious. You don’t want to tell him that you have never seen these machines. Maybe that’s his point. He says, “You wouldn’t be able to find these rare cameras anywhere now. Earlier, I used to show films like Laurel and Hardy on these.”

He can’t recall exactly but says “he has spent a lot on these.”

The aluminum donation box put in between us sheepishly narrates his struggles though.

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“The government promises a lot of things but I didn’t get anything. All I want is a permanent place for these cameras where everyone can come and see these. I want to continue collecting cameras but don’t know how to go about it without money,” says Wilson while adjusting his cap.

He can’t focus through the lens the way he used to some years ago. It seems he judges the functioning of a camera by how smooth its noise is. He makes me hear those sounds with utmost caution and asks to spot glitches. Then he himself does the exercise and hands the camera back to me. How would you tell him that you couldn’t mark the exact point!

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While handing over his visiting card, he firmly says, “I will keep doing it till my last breath. Let’s see if my children take it forward.”

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first published:November 28, 2019, 17:43 IST
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