Thursday, 28 June 2012

History of the Camera and Life

I want to bring up the camera as I think this is about the most important invention that records history in pictures.

If you go to museum, etc, you will see old models of cameras. Here are some old camera models: 

We can safely say the camera was invented by the Chinese, picked up by the Europeans, adapted and modified to whatever was usable though impractical. 

If we check old photographs of the 1830s, these were likely photos from the early camera models that worked, and the cameras were big and on a tripod-like structure. The flash used was blinding.

When I had my pictures taken in the early 1960s, the big bulky accordian-like box cameras were still in use by photo studios. I still remember in some cases they used a flash that was like a fan-flower piece and the flash itself was so strong that it could send a child rolling backwards. Many people did not like being photographed because of the blinding flash that was used for indoor photography. But the photographs from these early cameras are sharp and good, they last till today.

Some of the doctors had some of the early cameras. Later on there the SLRs, then the automatic disposable, followed by autofocus, then finally the digital still and now zoom and video cam. Soem doctors preferred to develop their own photographs.  

Most of the early B/W photos are very good are lasting. Nowadays we prefer coloured photos and I am worried they will not last. I looked through my photo collection and the coloured ones and slides may have to go soon. The B/W ones are still clear as if they were taken yesterday (they were taken when I completed my first degrees in 1976).

I have submitted 421 unique photos for the big book. The portraits are the usual ones but there is one portrait that stands out, and that is of Dr Megat Khas when he played the role of Bottom the Weaver in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream for a school play. He wore a dunce cap and looked really sad. The other stunning photos are of the Malay families and Malay ladies. I have never seen a Malay family gathered nicely for a photo and there is a nice one posed by Dr Megat Khas' family in a wooden home. There is one photo where 4 Megat brothers posed  for a photo, dressed in 3-piece and with pointed shoes. You may think such photos exist in European films but this is one with 4 Malay men. You cannot tell that they are Malay men. I particularly like the tea parties that the doctors attended. It seems that life was quite relaxed then and doctors had time to attend tea parties and enjoy the evening. In one photo, the men were dressed in baju Melayu and they looked really handsome. In another photo, the doctors & dentists gathered for dinner and they looked really happy. There is one photo with Dr Latifah Ghows seated very near to the camera and that is about the best photo of her so far. Next to her was a boy/man dressed in baju Melayu and songkok but I have no idea who it was. He looked Malay to me but I cannot make out who it is - could be any of the 12 doctors who are still not written about. There are quite a number of photos where most of the individual are still unidentified since the ones who knew them have all passed away. The faces are in full view but there is no clue to tell who they are. Most of the photos where the people are unidentified are from the 1960s. I don't know them too as I was 7 years old in 1965. I have passed on some of the photos to VI webmaster and to the Nursing Association in KL for assistance with identification. It is very sad that I don't know who are in the photos.

In the 1960s, there was the first Cabinet. That ministers whom I recall are Temenggung Jugah, Tan Sri Sardon Jubir, Aishah Ghani, Ghazali Jawi, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussien Onn, Ghafar Baba, etc. I remember Tun Dr Mahathir from 1974 when he was education minister. I remember most of the Agongs, mostly from the stamps I collected (still at it). I remember Sultanah Bahiyah because she was the prettiest queen on TV. 

I think we were more patriotic as kids in the early 1960s. We celebrated everything that the school taught us, even Poppy Day was a big thing at school and at home. The school uniforms made us feel like responsible kids. Parents also had a different attitude then. It was a different life altogether.

We had P Ramlee movies, B/W only, for a long time but that didn't bother us as nobody had coloured TV then. There was only one channel - RTM. Much later, we had a second channel, RTM2. Then in 1982, after I returned from California, we had TV3, which was in English. Because I had returned from California after being overseas for 6 years, I could not understand the English that TV3 had used at that time. I had a lot of trouble getting used to Malaysian English; when I left Malaysia at 17, I could't even say a sentence of conversational English. It took me many years to become Malaysian again, but now I have become Kelantanese. If I venture outside Kelantan, eg go to KL for Aidilfitri, then it is hard for me to speak standard Bahasa Melayu as I have lost that skill after living in Kelantan since 1983. I can still speak some English but not as much as when I first returned in 1982. I am now learning some basic Arabic. Soon I will lose another language and pick up a new language. I'm also picking up Tagalog, hoping to travel and see Philippines for the first time. I hope to learn Indonesian so I can visit Indonesia for the first time. I have been to Thailand but the life there is very different that I got very scared of the rural life. I particularly like the shops that were selling fabric in Hadyai (if I remember the place). They sell a lot of fried chicken on the way and our bus stopped so we could by some fried chicken. I still don't know the Thai language even though I live about an hour from the Thai border. I have not captured a lot of rural life and clinics as I only had the new digital cameras this year. I was using an entry model digital still camera but I got angry with my CPU one day as a lot of viruses attacked it that I just reformatted and lost all my photos.

For the digital still, I only need a minimum 300dpi for book reproduction but dsc nowadays come at 14 Mpixels and each photo is approx. 5MB, when they were just 100Kb before. So when more photos mean more storage space, I am lost because I have a lot of photos but I cannot keep accumulating photos. At some point, some photos need to go so I have some space. For books on The Early Malay Doctors alone, I use a 13GB external HD plus  lots of cute little pendrives when I work on different computers. I buy a lot of pendrives when I go shopping, some for my kids and the rest for my work. I don't keep any empty pendrive; when I need space, I just delete an entire photo album. Then when I need the photos again, I go out to photoshoot a whole new set of photos. I still believe, the best way to work today is to have a very good camera and a very fast laptop with as much RAM as possible, and the fastest Internet. I don't scan but refer the job to my daughter - she does all the necessary scanning for me. My other daughter takes care of all my phone calls except the ones where the caller speaks English and she doesn't understand a word. She speaks American English but fails to understand the normal English on the phone. My husband takes care of all the calls which I don't hear, fail to answer, fail to understand or when I'm asleep. I don't like handphones at all. I still prefer the old dial-a-number phone. I miss the old days when things were a lot easier to manage. Technological advances are good but I still think we must keep the old things too. The new inventions today break down so often that sometimes I think it is not worth buying a new thing. I still prefer news coming from a person rather than watch TV. I still prefer story-telling rather than watch TV. A lot of things in the old days have personal touch and were so meaningful to life itself. Nowadays, there is lack of soul in life; people don't stop to ponder at all.

Batu Ferringhi beach (beach of Portuguese stones), Penang