‘It’s real photography only when it’s shot on film.’
Allama Prabhu’s Prabhu Photos has been in business for over 50 years in Bangalore – a sanctuary for people who enjoy and value a more meditative form of photography. In a world dominated by digital photography, for whom the tactile analogue world of shooting and developing rolls of film is equally alien and exciting, Prabhu Photos has been a sanctuary and has spurred a resurgence of film photography.
‘I didn’t want to run just another photo studio. I wanted this to be a space where, yes we develop film rolls and sell film, but also enthusiasts can talk, learn and discuss photography.’ he says.
In the 1970s, Allama Prabhu was a student at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore when he discovered how much he enjoyed taking and developing photographs and eventually had a small dark room set up in the university. During these years, the German made Agfa Click 3 camera loaded with 120mm film was a close companion as he continued to experiment inside and outside the dark room.
Today, Allama Prabhu runs the studio with his son Dinesh Allamaprabhu and a handful of dedicated staff who share his love and believe in the beauty of film photography. In the past few years, Dinesh has been instrumental in making the studio a hub for a younger generation of film photography enthusiasts. He’s rebranded the store on Instagram, re-christening it to Film Fotostore, engaging with a growing community of young photographers who are now discovering the beauty of shooting on 35mm and 120mm film stock. Dinesh recounts how a lot of young people today turn up at the store having discovered an old roll of film or a heirloom camera and are keen on restoring or developing – an easy way to time travel perhaps.
Taking a step back from the bustle of Brigade road, Prabhu Photos is nestled in a busy bylane. While the studio may be hard to find, it’s hard to forget. Once inside, shelves packed with cameras, the likes of the iconic Rolleiflex to the community favourite Canon AE 1 all greet you.
So what makes Prabhu Photos an exception when you compare it to the countless photo studios that shut shop once digital photography took over at the turn of the millennium? They’re not just a store where relationships are purely transactional. This has been the reason why they’ve been able to nurture a very strong sense of community with folks who’ve discovered the possibilities of film photography.
‘I’ve been coming to the store ever since I picked up an old SLR from Allama Prabhu a few years ago and when the rolls are developed, he takes the time to look at the frames and tells you what he thinks of it and what could have been better. When you get help directly from a renowned photographer in such an encouraging way, you don’t really think of the studio as just a store but a space run by and for photography lovers ’ says a customer who has been shooting on 35mm film since 2020.
Both Allama Prabhu and Dinesh enjoy sifting through rolls of 35mm film, curating and appreciating good photographs taken by their customers. The duo are quick to converse, especially if you are new to analogue photography or even if you’re just exploring the possibility of trying it out.
A few visits to the store and it’s clear, a new generation of photographers have now embraced this slower, contemplative and perhaps a bit more expensive form of photography. You invariably encounter a customer or two excitedly handing in a roll of film, a bit of nervousness often evident, a trait of those who have grown up reviewing their photos the moment after it’s shot. While many may think this yet another symptom of nostalgia, Allama Prabhu also believes that this is a means for many to learn the nuances of photography by being more mindful of each frame spent.
While many darkrooms have faded away, this one shines bright.