My father was a hobby photographer and had a beautiful collection of Contax equipment. As I progressed in my work, he started generously handing down his collection to me for my desired needs. The first item he passed down to me was this Contax 159 MM, a camera that has a reputation for failure some 20-odd years post-release. Of course, having sat in a closet since he’d purchased a Nikon F90X, this particular model was no exception.
Eager to use the fantastic lenses I had on hand, I spent days researching the potential problems my poor camera was suffering. Since Contax is no longer supported or serviced by any local shops, I was forced to scour online forums for a remedy. The majority of which, gave me the defeating advice that a mid-80s camera, with electronic internals, would be much more worthwhile to replace than to repair. However, there was a glimmer of hope. The shutter is magnetically controlled, and when the camera goes unused for extended periods of time, the magnets can corrode and fuse together. I’d never repaired a camera before and once I had the camera disassembled (far beyond necessary) the task immediately seemed impossible. Thankfully, a drop of isopropyl, a nail file, and some tenacity had the camera firing just as it did when it was purchased in 1985!
Where I’m from, fall nights are just over 6 hours long, so I began researching a film that I could really push to take natural light street portraits. Being a cinephile, and working in the video production industry, I promptly ordered as many rolls of Cinestill 800T as I could afford. Remarkably, this was the first I’d heard of the film, and since first shooting it, you will always find a roll in my bag.
For this shoot, my dad also “loaned” me his West German-made ZEISS Planar T 85mm f/1.4 lens for the job. The results were well beyond my expectations. The look and feel are, to me, reminiscent of ‘Taxi Driver’, with this roll metered for 1250, pushed 1 full stop in development.
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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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