I was born in January in a small town which back then was still communist Poland. The transition to market economy began a year and a half later. It brought a new opening albeit at a high price: the country was shaken, and many people were left to their own devices, unable to cope with the realities of dashing capitalism.
Although my childhood was happy, I recently realised how much I felt the consequences of this change. Contrary to my peers in the West and in large Polish cities, I did not experience material wealth.
It partly explains why I still feel that possessing goods is the way to achieve happiness. I have tried to change my attitude, but it is a slow and sometimes a painful process. After all, old habits die hard. To this day, objects are often a synonym of well-being to me.
At the same time, I am a strong proponent of living more sustainably. I thus know I have to change my attitude to feel okay with myself. When the future of the planet is at stake, no excuse is good enough to stick with the old ways.
Almost a year ago, my wife decided to give me a birthday present I am not used to: an experience rather than an object. We went to Northern Zealand for a weekend at a hotel close to the Kronborg Castle, immortalised by Shakespeare in his ‘Hamlet’. It was also supposed to be a getaway trip as we both had had a busy winter.
We ended up going there in early March – two months after my birthday. You must know that the Danish spring is very similar to the British one – it always comes too late. We still felt the crispy winter air en route. And even more so when we arrived at the destination. Although we drove through densely populated areas, the bareness and stillness of the pre-spring landscape surrounded us to a degree that amazed me.
After checking in at the hotel, we went to the lobby bar to enjoy an early afternoon drink. We sat by the window. My wife cheekily remarked that there were three of us – her, me and my Bronica SQ-A.
I insisted on bringing the camera without any particular idea in mind. Just minutes after we came the crispness, which made it possible to see the Swedish coast of Kattegat, gave place to thick, milky fog. It was so ubiquitous that we could not see the Kronborg castle, usually dominating over the whole area.
Since I never tried the Bronica in such a weather, I quickly finished my drink and went shooting. The barren hotel’s facilities, such as beach volleyball pitch and foldable lounge chairs put on the lawn, created a very atmospheric view. As excited as I was, I felt I needed to be slow in my actions not to ruin the calmness of the moment.
Later, I went to our room to photograph the view from the window. Although the fog already started to dilute at that point, the vast car park seemed to be basking in some luscious incense.
The Bronica SQ, being a rather inexpensive medium-format system, has given me more joy than any other photographic experience. Not that there is something wrong with Hasselblad or Pentax, but with relatively basic gear I felt intense joy taking picture during that short birthday present stay in March. Bronica gave me a different kind of experience – one that is about cherishing the slow, mechanical apparatus in an equally slow atmosphere of a late winter – early spring hotel in Northern Zealand.
The Bronica itself was another gift from my wife. It gave me an unprecedented feeling of creative freedom and the ability to express myself. The camera also added to the feeling that one does not need the latest, most expensive gear to enjoy photography. We can reuse and recycle a great deal of the mankind industrial legacy of the last half a century, extending its lifespan and feeling joy without using a lot of the planet’s precious resources.
A few weeks after the trip I went to my beloved island of Bornholm to enjoy the early spring air and visit some spots I had never been to on that beautiful island on the Baltic Sea. Needless to say, I took my Bronica to enhance the experience. It was in the capital of Bornholm, Rønne, that the camera suddenly refused to function. I still don’t know what exactly happened, but I hope to learn it soon after the camera gets serviced. After all, it’s one of few materials things that helps me enjoy the non-material side of life.
On Bornholm, I still managed to shoot a few rolls of film. I hope to share them with you one day.
All photos were taken with Zenza Bronica SQ-A and Zenzanon-S 50mm f/3.5.
You can find more of my works on Instagram.
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