I am a contrarian. When I was looking to start again in film photography, I knew immediately that I wanted a vintage Contax G2. My goal was to have a camera that was compact enough for “every day carry,” which meant I was considering primarily rangefinders. Almost anyone who has the least interest in this art form ranks the Leica brand as what they most hope to own, if they rich enough or good enough, or rich enough to suppose they are good enough. My interests have always been iconoclastic. I did not set out to be different for the sake of difference, but for whatever reason my choices usually are not conventional.
The Contax G2 is a cult classic in its own right. With proprietary Zeiss lenses, including a 45mm prime said to be ample justification to buy the whole kit, this titanium model still seems contemporary and handsome. The ergonomics are perfect. Everything is in the right place for me. They did not design for obsolescence back in the day. The manufacturer, boasting German origins, bought by Japanese owners, is defunct though, perhaps adding to the appeal. On the internet the prices continue to increase, because adapters allow the glass to be mounted to new mirrorless cameras. My seller bundled the champagne body with the 45mm and 90mm; and I subsequently found the unusual zoom, which I have not yet tried.
So many of our decisions can be explained by our personal histories rather than any rational process. I have to admit I am no different than most of us who have grown up in a consumer culture. I like to acquire products. I would prefer to believe I’m not naive in believing buying the latest gadget will make me happy or popular. But I would be lying to myself if I denied that I enjoy possessing a new item, albeit more tool than toy. When the Contax G2 came out, more than a generation ago, it was priced for people with much more disposable income than I enjoyed then. As much as I might have desired one, I ended up purchasing a Sigma SLR for an order of magnitude less — that was a bit of an oddball pick as well, a story for another day. In maturity, I have the means for the Contax G2. As with film photography, deferred gratification turns out to be better than its instant alternative.
There are risks in relying on used equipment, but uncertainty is inherent to any worthwhile experience. The lens had to be cleaned of a speck of fungal accumulation, like a fingerprint left on the inside. The shutter doesn’t fire perfectly, as if there is a focus priority that locks it with no override. The complex electronics of the Contax G2 guarantee that eventually it will fail. Any repair will give pause, even to the most committed fan.
Nonetheless, my pleasure from film photography exceeds my pleasure from digital photography. I must be more mindful. I cannot erase mistakes. Thus it would not be an overstatement that film photography makes me a better person. I am more deliberate and patient. There cannot be much more reason to take up a hobby. I appreciate this opportunity.
In a series of guest posts on this blog, I will share the story of my photographic experience as it develops, if you will pardon the pun. Photography is intrinsically a social activity. There are those, such as Vivien Maier, who produced images for themselves alone — though even her pictures were of people and eventually came to light. By and large, photography is intended to be exposed, to offer another play on words. It is for us to show others what we have seen. Even if the later viewer is only ourselves, the record is for a different version of the photographer, one whose mind’s eye plays tricks in later life or cannot summon up the recollection.
Film simulates life. Digital merely simulates film. That is the difference.