EMULSIVE | Jan 3, 2018 | 5
Thoughts: The life of a film camera; and all the lives it’s part of – by James Horrobin
This article isn’t on photography per se, it’s about cameras, it’s about our cameras. It’s about the cameras we carry in our bags, pockets or hands.
I decided to write this after an old friend from school contacted me about my previous article. We hadn’t spoke in a while but she said that after reading my previous article she dug out an old camera of hers. I’ve never inspired anyone before so it was really nice to read.
The reason for me deciding to write off the back of this was because the my friend’s camera is an excellent symbol of what I’d like to rant about. So here it is:
The life of a film camera and all the lives it’s part of…
I feel this is a part of film photography that gets forgotten about sometimes, and whilst the previous owners of a camera are irrelevant once it’s in your possession I think it’s a “nice” thing to think about. As I write this I look at my collection of cameras, whilst not huge in comparison to others it’s still something I take enjoyment from.
What I find awesome about this is, is that some of the cameras I have are seemingly ancient. In these cameras lives decades of history have passed by, from global issues to personal problems that affect us all at some point, each humble camera “alive” today has been through it all.
So, what’s my point?
I love the thought that I might be using someone’s grandad’s camera. The idea that before it reached me, after months of saving up pocket money and with feverish excitement it was bought brand new in a shop that at one time was a bustling local hive of photography…but is now a nail salon.
Our new purchase got used daily, weekly, then almost never, except for the occasional birthday or Christmas. Then it was put away and the owner of it forgot, years later it’s picked up again by a curious child, who like his ancestral apes before him clicks what can click, presses what can be pressed and opens what will open. At this point after the pressing and clicking is done the fate of the camera reaches its singularity, does the child say “what’s this” or do they chuck it back into the box again.
To those who asked “What’s this” I thank you, you’ve given a camera another chance to do what it does best.
Years later it’s battered, beaten and held together by tape but the damn thing couldn’t be happier (if it had emotions), It’s done it’s job, and it’s done it over generations who’ve got enjoyment out of it, with their own friends and their own family. Eventually it becomes forgotten again, it’s original owner passes away, and our second or third generation of custodians doesn’t have the interest anymore so they take it to a shop with the immortal lines;
“Is this worth anything”.
The shop owner offers a price which is neither more nor less what was expected, but also not quite right either, a figure is eventually reached and just like that our little camera is no longer part of the family it watched grow up, it gets repaired and put on a shelf where it’s surrounded on all sides by cameras older and younger than it, each one having a story like ours.
Our camera waits with it’s lens open to the same scene for an age until someone curious enough comes along and buys it with the same feverish excitement as its original owner. And it all begins again;
As I said earlier, I know this is a bit soppy and I may be guilty of anthropomorphising a camera a bit too much but I think it’s great that as film photographers we almost all use cameras that have had previous owners. If you’ve had a camera since you bought it that’s brilliant, but, if like me, you’re using one that’s had a life before it reached you…well, I find a bit of magic in that.
I wish we could have aworld wide reunion with cameras and their original owners, who’s Toyo and Wista am I using? Did it belong to an old Japanese man before finding it’s way to England? Isabel Curdes said it well, in her interview. She said she began looking for a film camera after her hiatus. What made me smile was the fact that she was looking for her camera, I felt the nonchalance in her saying “her” camera, as if one finds you and you find it.
I hope you all enjoyed this and didn’t groan too much whilst reading it, I’d love to see your stories in the comments.
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