Museo Camera – The first classic camera museum in India
The beauty about vintage cameras is that it is a universal hobby. All over the globe the passion for historic camera processes and analogue photography is growing again. No matter if you are in Asia, Europe or America, most major towns will now have a shop dedicated to all things analogue. Sometimes you even find the most amazing and specialized venues in the places you least expect them to be. One jaw-dropping place for vintage camera enthusiasts is the Museo Camera in Delhi, India. Yes my friends, this is right: one of the best camera museums in the world is situated in New Delhi…well technically in Gurgaon (or Gurugram), India can be complicated.
I lived in Delhi from 2016 to 2020 and in a way this is also my farewell post to this interesting country. I had always heard about a place in Gurugram where there was a superb camera collection held in a private collection. Gurugram, or Gurgaon as it was called until recently, is a satellite city of the sprawling Delhi metropolis. It is situated about 20 kilometres south of Delhi and reachable via metro or car.
There, for many years, Aditya Aria opened the doors of his private home to people interested in seeing his private photographica collection. He kept adding new items and received donated ones too, so that he was quickly running out of space. So he decided to do what every serious collector should do: build a dedicated building to house his lenses and cameras.
Here is an older video of Aditya showing his collection, when it was still in his living-room before the Museum was build:
This is how the Museo Camera was born. One man on a mission to create a dedicated place for the history of cameras and photography. It is even more than that: it’s a dedicated space for people to come together and learn and exchange ideas.
The camera museum itself occupies the whole ground floor. About 2000 objects are on display. What impressed me a lot is how well the museum is curated. It meticulously traces the history of photography techniques including the major technical innovations.
Additionally, the history and milestones of each major photographic manufacturer is being illuminated in detail. Zeiss, Linhof, Canon, Nikon and many others all have their dedicated space.
Highlights of the exhibition are certainly the aerial cameras. I have been told that the photographers that took the pictures of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings were trained in using these cameras in India.
Other highlights include huge plate cameras. Some of the biggest I have ever seen.
I also came across some cameras and lenses that I did not even know existed, like this stamp camera:
One thing that I noticed is that some pieces of exhibition are not in great condition. This is India and most of the lenses and cameras have spent decades under humid and hot conditions somewhere in the subcontinent. Not ideal condition to preserve them. Yet the Museo Camera is doing an excellent job at keeping the place tidy and making sure that the temperatures and humidity are ideal.
This is also a museum for the whole family. If you get tired at looking at old gear (rumor has it this happens to some people) there is loads of stuff to playground with. For example Magic lanterns, stereoscopes and even old-school studio props:
The whole first floor contains an exhibition area, a complete darkroom where various techniques are being taught, a library dedicated to photography and much more.
Museo Camera is really a great place – not only for a camera museum but also as a whole package. there simply is so much to do and see. This place also feels so well made – I can’t thank Aditya enough to have had the vision and dedication to create this unique building.
Here is a quick walk around video of the current Museo Camera:
The vision to have made this is simply brilliant and I recommend to anyone who is living in the area or is passing by. If Delhi is getting a bit much (which it can, sometimes) this is a real oasis of tranquility and knowledge. I felt totally at ease in the building and could have stayed for hours. When we made our trip back to Delhi on the Royal Enfield and the streets of Delhi were oozing by I could not stop thinking how glad I was to finally have visited Museo Camera on my last day in India. These were some of the best 300 rupees I had spend in the subcontinent!