The year was 1967. SM Siddique, a camera enthusiast, started a camera servicing shop at the Rathkhola intersection in Nawabpur. His passion for tinkering with cameras was already deeply ingrained — he learned the intricacies of the device from his father, Abdul Haque.
For Siddique, transforming this passion into a profession was not difficult. To honour his father, he chose Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre as his shop's name, which, over time, became Bangladesh's second-oldest camera servicing shop.
Before this, another shop named "Gani Repairing" started operating in Alubazar, Dhaka.
Fifty-six years have passed since the establishment of Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre. And even though SM Siddique is no longer with us, his shop continues to stand tall.
The present custodian of the business is his son Shahedul Haque Shahed, who has firmly held the reins of his father's business, expanding its reach as well, since 1991.
In 1996, Shahed relocated the business to Stadium Market. From there, a new journey began.
A haven of vintage cameras
If you walk in through Dhaka Stadium Market's Gate 3 or 4, you will see Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre on the second floor. Shop number 158 is small and uninspiring — the length and width of the shop will be no more than a few feet.
But once you stand in front of it, a variety of cameras from the 1950s and 1960s, which are commonly known as "vintage" cameras, is sure to catch your eye.
A wonderful collection of old and new stands in front of you. From cameras of the 1950s to cameras of the present day, it would not be wrong to call the shop a mini expo of cameras. The "vintage" items displayed at Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre cannot be bought with money but camera lovers can drop by for a glimpse of this impressive collection.
"Many show interest in buying vintage cameras. But I have kept them to display my father's memories, [it's] not for sale," Shahedul Haque Shahed, the current owner, told The Business Standard.
From German Rolliflex to One Twenty cameras, small format One Ten cameras, Japan's Yasika Matte 124G, China's Seagull 120, Polaroid, Kodak Disc 8000 and Coca-Cola — all types of cameras can be found here.
It runs in the family
The love for cameras was passed down through generations at the Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre. Founder SM Siddique's father, Abdul Haque, was a skilled mechanic who studied at the Mechanics Department of BUET.
Shahedul Haque said, "My grandfather had no formal education or training in this field. He had a talent for cameras — it was a natural gift. He also had a very good understanding of camera mechanisms. He used to repair cameras at home.
"When my grandfather worked, my father would sit beside him and watch. Over time, my father also learned the trade," he added.
During the 1960s, there was no organised system for importing camera parts to the country. Technical books or manuals to learn camera repair were not available either.
The experience, skill and education he inherited from his father became the foundation for SM Siddique's initiative to establish the business.
Apart from repairing cameras, SM Siddique also had a passion for collecting cameras and was also interested in photography.
Shahedul said, "I have tried my best to preserve my father's camera collection. However, maintaining it is quite challenging."
Regarding how the cameras were collected, Shahedul said, "During my father's time, the German-made One-Twenty cameras were most commonly used. He had connections with many people. They used to bring cameras from around the world to him."
Abdul Haque repaired the Duke of Edinburgh's camera
During SM Siddique's tenure, many legendary photographers frequented Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre. Siddique maintained a friendly relationship with everyone, including Prime Minister's photographers and prominent photojournalists.
Shahedul Haque's memory also involves the famous photographer Rashid Talukder, who captured the history of the Liberation War. Shahedul was introduced to Talukder by his father.
Shahedul also shared about his grandfather Abdul Haque's exceptional skills in camera servicing. According to him, Abdul Haque once repaired the Duke of Edinburgh's camera.
Shahedul recalled, "I heard from my father that Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, came to Dhaka. During that trip, the Duke's camera got damaged. They visited many places in the city to repair the camera and finally ended up with my grandfather. He repaired the camera within a short time."
The mechanics of the shop
Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre has over 100 cameras in its possession, where different types of lenses can also be found. Among these, around 20 to 25 cameras have been collected from the 1950s onwards.
The younger generation is the primary customer of Haque & Sons Camera Servicing Centre. Model and wedding photographers tend to frequent this place more often. The camera shops of Baitul Mukarram also get services from Haque & Sons if they fail to solve any problems at their shops.
The mechanics first try to understand the issues and then diligently work to solve any customer's problem.
The service charge starts from Tk500.
Shahedul said they struggle to keep up with the changing times due to a lack of proper training. "Technology is advancing fast, but we do not get adequate training, which makes the trade very difficult," he explained.
In 1990, an exhibition of the cameras collected by SM Siddique was organised at the Alliance Française to commemorate 150 years of photography. The then Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Moniruzzaman Mia, the then Ambassador of France and the Director of the France Cultural Centre were present at that exhibition. The exhibition was held from 28 January to 10 February 1990.
Shahedul Haque Shahid intends to hold an exhibition again with his father's camera collection.