In 45 years, I can count the number of cameras I have taken meaningful pictures with by using the fingers of two hands. Three of these cameras are still in regular rotation. Another is well maintained and could be of service if called upon. Two were traded in for upgrades along the way. Three now rest peacefully in happier pastures. Of these three, a Ricoh KR-30 Program, sits as a potential organ donor on a shelf in California. Two sit on a bookcase in the Photo-den of my house, a shelf below a stash of film and chemicals and a shelf above a growing collection of photobooks. They share the shelf with relics from Jenny’s family, 2 – 100 year old box cameras that work but with no right sized film to be found.
The two cameras of mine on the shelf share something in common. At the beginning, they were important tools that informed the photographer I am today. The first, a Minolta Autopak 450e 110 film camera, was a Christmas present when I was 12. It was a little fancier than most 110 cameras. It had a focus adjustment slider, a red LED in the viewfinder let you know if you had enough light, if not you could adjust another slider to let more light in, there was a pop out flash, and coolest of all, a slide in place close up/macro lens. That camera taught me that there was more to photography than point and shoot.
The Minolta was followed by a family relic, a Petri 2.8 Range finder, passed to me from an uncle who purchased it while stationed in Japan between the Korean and Vietnam wars. I wrote about it in some detail here. In addition to being my first 35mm camera, it is also the camera that guided me back into the world of film photography after a ten year hiatus in digital.
After a refurbish, using the Petri again helped me process the recent loss of the Uncle who had given it to me so many years ago.
Shooting rolls of film led to rediscovering film processing, then onto scanning negatives, leading to processing scans with digital software. I used up those 20 year old rolls of various Kodak BW emulsions I found in a bag. I experimented with various Ilford and Lomography varieties, along the way falling in love with Ilford Delta 100.
As we worked, the Petri and I rediscovered each other – quirks, warts and all. The Petri was difficult to load, especially with how the leader for Ilford film was cut. The Petri uses a very small pin to catch the first sprocket hole of the film. Ilford cuts this to be very thin, the camera (or I on the first wind) often tore it and then unaware, advanced the film not onto the roll, but into the collection compartment, all crumpled up. This sprocket was typically cut too thick on Lomography rolls and was harder to convince the pin to even take up. The Kodak from 25 years ago, perfect. Which was fine for the 10 rolls I had left…
The Petri was soft around the edges. I found this endearing about her and simply knew I needed to work within the square of a larger frame. The lens stack was now clouded. Shooting directly into light left an aura over the whole frame. Winters didn’t thrill her. Cold parts contracted in unequal speed leading to a finicky shutter. Regardless, I was enjoying every bit of the time we had together.
As spring came this year, the days warmed and it was time to get the Petri off the shelf and out of the bag. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my non-teaching days at university. Tuesday is for digital and then, after office hours, Thursday was for film.
One Thursday in May I walked the northside of downtown. I had a roll of Potsdam 100 left in the bag, seemed a good use for it. I Parked on Pennsylvania, under the interstate to shade the car from a freakishly hot day. Loading the film as I walked, away I went. This and that caught my eye as I headed south for the circle. Indianapolis is a city of cranes these days. None of the work currently going on will reshape the skyline from afar, but the density of the city core is increasing, replacing what was lost in the 70’s.
It was graduation season, new college and high school grads were meeting photographers and families to take portraits of accomplishment. I could‘ve been a little closer on these shots, but it was their day, not mine. I headed a block east, taking Delaware north. Through arched remnants of old city market, I saw a man sitting. He framed up well and I made the picture. A block later, on the steps of what is now the Salvation Army’s Women’s and Children’s center, I saw an odd, peculiar book sprawled open. Perhaps this was a dictionary of the biblical world – not sure. But it was a compelling image. I framed it up, pressed the shutter…and… nothing. I figured I had forgotten to wind, so I wound, pressed the shutter again and nothing. Something was wrong. It felt ominous. I grabbed my cell and made an image with it.
I kept walking, tinkering a bit with the Petri along the way. I wound the film back into the can. Opened the camera to take a closer look. No shutter action. I was two blocks away from the camera shop in town, headed to the used desk and asked the attendant if someone could take a quick look. She walked it back and 15 minutes later returned to say that the repairman had taken a look, made some lubrications, but it was time for a different camera.
Needless to say, I was crestfallen. My mood darkened for several weeks. It was hard to even pick up my digital cameras.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t work with many cameras. I don’t have the curiosity to shoot one of everything. My two digital cameras usually have 50mm equivalent lenses on them (I use MFT gear – I hate big cameras). I like to imagine that my sense of focal length and familiarity of mechanics for the specific camera I use, in needed situations, allows me to reliably capture an image without using the viewfinder. Not everyone else enjoys the experience of, or practices photography in the same way – I am good with that.
I processed the roll. As I have found in the past, Ilfosol 3 and Lomography emulsions are not always the best matches. The frames seem grainy for 100 speed film. I attribute this to the combination.
As I was planning this post, I wasn’t sure what images to include. There were ~12 frames left when the shutter quit, 24 images made it out of the developing can. I processed 19, 5 were slightly different angles or a few steps back from a similar frame I included. This isn’t quite the “whole roll” post that this site often presents. But they are the last images my friend and I made together.
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