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  • Writer's pictureMrinal Bahukhandi


Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Images made using a Handmade Matchbox Pinhole Camera

Ilford HP5 Plus 35mm film roll (ISO 400) || R09 B&W Developer


3 am: All I can see are phosphenes – like silver halides that never saw the day of light - dead grain.

I saw her first in the smoking room, lighting a cigarette with a matchstick. Who does that these days? It’s like shooting on film when you can shoot pixels. She saw me enter and offered me the light.

Lit. I decide not to blink when she spoke. She reminded me of Greta Garbo from those B&W films. Always holding her cigarette parallel to the ground. She had me there.

Dumb focus clears the picture. Lucid tunnel visions of a tomb where we chat all day about humming-birds and honeybees . . . opening up coffins full of feelings.

She emerged out of the shadows making them gray on her way. Her hair was all black but one could see a few lighter threads making the shadows blacker. She gets old but never ages.

Clarity is overrated but it does reach out to vagueness like it needs her. They merge as quickly as lovers fall in love, defying reason and logic, forming a circle of confusion. Vagueness Wins – Always.

We used to swim in a pool of words when we talked. Making our way to the next lap inventing masterstrokes. We came up with words that were sentences. Verbatim.

How does knowledge leak from a lightproof mind? My obstinacy is sacrosanct but I forget too often. There is a pinhole in my memory and images are faded.

We made a mausoleum for us. Our love is buried forever in the Taj Mahal. Our ashes are the wings of birds, our bones - the trees, much like the ones you drew. Anyone who knows what love is, will understand.

A crackling noise of the radio being tuned finally settles into the scratchy version of “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole. I feel perpetually framed - in love and in life.



This project started at a photography workshop conducted by Edson Dias ( where I learnt to make a simple pin-hole camera with a manual shutter, using only a matchbox and gaffers tape. The size of a standard matchbox (50.8 x 38mm x 8.4) perfectly holds a 35mm frame (24mm x 36mm) and to shoot analog images with a simple device that fits in your palm was simply astonishing.


What made this project even more interesting is when Edson told me that images from this film roll would become part of a photo series ( and instead of using a title for each image, there should be original prose written by the photographer (author) and was to be themed as if, it were the continuation of a letter written to someone. Each photograph would then become a missing piece and the series would be complete when viewed & read at once.

I didn’t have anything in mind of what I will write in this epistle series, but for some reason, I wanted to shoot an ancient monument. Upon enquiry, Ashish Sahoo (an analog photographer suggested that I should visit the Archaelogical Museum of Mehrauli Village, where the tomb of Quli Khan (Emperor Akbar’s trusted General), Gandhak Ki Baoli (a step well dating back to 11th Century AD) and Qutab Minar (the tallest brick-layered minaret in the world) were at walking distance from each other. Ashish decided to join me on the photo walk, and thus, loaded with a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus (400 ISO film), I was ready to shoot some antique structures.

Later, the same day, Edson developed the roll in his darkroom (my first experience ever) and one look at the negatives showed that only 10-12 images were properly exposed. Upon scanning, it became clear that most were overexposed and only 7-8 were usable. But I was thrilled to see that a rudimentary box had the potential of creating magic. So what, if the bottle was pint sized? The genie in the bottle was out and a few wishes granted.

Over a period, as I saw the images more closely, they reminded me of a time gone by. Faded memories from the past echoed in my soul and from the boggled mind came some thoughts, some words. In excerpts, I wrote describing the love at first sight and then about the abandonment that love lost leaves you with. These were meant to be Karkaesque private notes, written but never to be delivered.


Examples of the overexposed (corrected) images not used in the Epistolary.

See these images and more on my Instagram feed.

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