These 5 Frames were all shot on an afternoon walk around my neighborhood in Midtown Detroit. It was a hot summer day and I was absolutely exhausted from being locked into my tiny apartment for so long from the lockdown. One afternoon I had stopped by my parents’ house while they were at work to check in on our dog, who was very sick at the time, and I found my dad’s old Minolta Maxxum 7 in the basement.
I was starting to get “the camera bug” more and more, as I was looking at buying a brand-new digital camera for work and art aspirations. My dad had two other Sigma lenses for this Minolta, but they were all broken — as I later found out that Sigma lenses seemed to have a fair share of problems in the late 90’s.
The next morning, I ran to CVS down the street and bought the only film they had, Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400, as well as some batteries. I had played around with film photography before, as my dad did a lot of local photography around Detroit when I was a young kid. But quite frankly I knew nothing about how to use the camera or how to even load the film. After downloading the manual and figuring out how to load it, it was time to start shooting.
Unfortunately, this camera probably had not been turned on in over 10 years and started malfunctioning right away.
The Minolta Maxxum 7 is probably one of the most digital film cameras you can find, as it has multiple programmed auto functions, autofocusing in most of its lenses, and the much-bragged-about at the time “LCD screen”, which is a tiny display informing you of your current f/stop, shutter speed and so on. There were two chief problems with this camera; firstly, it would rewind your roll of film automatically at random. You just shot frame 14? Rewind. Every time it did this, I would retreat to my apartment bathroom, hanging the darkest sheets I could find over the window so I could use a film removal tool to unspool the film. Then I’d have to fire off each shot in the dark so that I wouldn’t double expose the film.
The second problem is one that I’ve never been able to resolve. The manual shutter and f/stop dials were almost entirely unresponsive to the camera’s onboard computer. Every time I shot the camera in manual mode, I would struggle to force the camera into selecting the settings that I wanted for the particular shot. Then to make matters worse it would reset my settings between shots. All of the programmed auto functions continued to work, so I carried away shooting variously on these modes.
After battering through all of these problems and evidently destroying a roll of film in the process, I was finally able to shoot consistently on the camera with decent results. I’ve since moved away from the neighborhood, as I graduated from Wayne State University, which was quite literally across the street from my apartment. I cherish these photos quite a bit because they really do signify a very transitory period in my life, and period where I was discovering other artistic forms of photography beyond digital. These photos also simply remind me of my old neighborhood, where I enjoyed life with friends, and still have many friends that I visit there from time to time today.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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