Back in July, me and few other members of our photoclub took part in very fun event. The premise was simple, take a bunch of random photographers, give each of them a disposable film camera and send them all to one location, to capture small series of photographs.
50 people signed up for the event and it was a really beautiful mix of photographers. Both Chinese and foreigners, from young students using mainly their phones, over enthusiasts shooting on the latest mirrorless cameras, to senior professionals. But most of them with no previous experience with shooting on film, making disposable cameras their first entry into the analog photography, in a simple and fun form.
Each of us got one AgfaPhoto LeBox, a fairly mediocre disposable model. 27 frames of 400 ISO color film, aperture around f11 and shutter speed hopefully at 1/100. All packed into a tiny plastic body, with a plastic lens and an inaccurate viewfinder. Definitely a fun camera to use, but I think you can guess that the image quality wasn’t the priority. And oh my, was it so easy to get fingers in your frame by accident. I think each of us ended up with at least a few frames with fingers creeping in from the side.
We had one weekend to shoot at Huaqiangbei, a small district in Shenzhen. It used to be famous for its gigantic electronics market, partly obscured in myths and stories, how people would find parts for new iPhones months before their release. Nowadays it’s quite a bit calmer, but still very lively location, full of small sellers, tiny food stalls and never-ending flow of fully packed trolleys. And its district government is actually very open to photography, organizing different photo events and exhibitions, including this very own film photography event.
And so we set out with a simple task – take a series of 9 shots with a connecting theme. But then I realized that Agfa’s wide lens is not really suited for the abstract architectonic shots I had previsualized in my mind. Shooting inside the electronics market also didn’t seem to be such a good idea, with the limited exposure of a disposable camera being no match for the dim lighting. Add to it the typical Shenzhen summer weather, resembling mostly a hot steamy shower, and suddenly you get an interesting challenge ahead. In the end, many of us ended up going for the good old street photography, which always feels like the easiest choice for mega-cities of Asia.
Two days later and we are at the end, with 50 rolls of film on their way to get developed and digitized. Few weeks later it’s time to sort out our photos and pick the best 9, which will get displayed as a part of exhibition in the middle of the Huaqiangbei road, for all the local workers and visitors to ponder over.
So, what are my overall feelings about this event? I simply loved it. As a fan of Lo-Fi film cameras, I’m happy for every opportunity to get some shots through these plastic contraptions and seeing the final results actually exhibited was just amazing. But this event was even better for others, for the people that got their first chance to actually shoot film. I can only hope that some of them will take it as their entrance point to the world of analog photography and will soon join ranks of film shooters. And with some luck, we will get more events like this in the future.
Please enjoy a collection of photos from the event, captured by our photoclub members:
I would like to thank David, Esther and 5A1 Art space for putting this event together.
You can find our photoclub Shenzhen International Foto Collective on Instagram.
And you can follow my Instagram for more photos from life in China.
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