So in the past year, I developed a habit of antique cameras.
I think it all started because of my wedding and my friend Rafe. He began taking photographs with film. "Film?," I gasped. Why in the world would anyone go back to film when you have the convenience of digital photograph? Well, what did I know? Apparently, nothing. When the photos from my wedding came in, including the photos of my hired photographer ( which for the record, were GORGEOUS), I think the single best photo of my husband and I was taken by Rafe. I realized that I love what I love about movies: the grain, the way the film as a medium captures natural light.
It made me realize the pleasure of film that I experienced in my early youth. Snapping photos, sending them off to a lab, returning with an envelope and reliving memories. I have spent hours of my life looking through old photo albums. My mother stores a pile of them, filled with old photographs of her time before marriage in Bombay----women with fake hair buns and a thick swipe of eyeliner, people sitting in a train cabin, people piled into shots, cavorting around a table in paper hats, all those singular moments weave a tapestry of temporal texture that make me nostalgic for a time before I was even born.
Anyhow, I got myself a Contax T3, which served me well. However, I had an old flame who was a maestro of sorts with photography and did the loveliest polaroid photos that I had ever seen. I realized that I enjoyed instant photography, even procuring an Instax for my wedding. Anyhow, I tried to resurrect some of that nostalgia with older polaroids, using the Impossible film but found the film a bit unpredictable. Don't get me wrong. I love the imperfections intrinsic to the creative process----the mishaps that happen from a slight lack of control that adds to the journey and even final product. BUT, in this case, I found the whole process was too much out of my control. That is when I happened upon Photobooth in San Francisco in the spring/summer of 2012. On a whim, I bought an old Land camera. A brick of a camera, built like a tank, that took some of the most amazing photos that I ever tried. The Land camera doesn't just take photos, it captures things as I see them.....
I went to Paris. I grew to realize that my camera was a magnet for middle-aged men. My husband, I realized, was also a game model ( his patience with me!). But I also realized there was no negative. And as I delved more into photography, I realized the value of film not just for aesthetics but also for posterity. Films lasts. Digital doesn't, without maintenance. Resolution of film is better and captures a greater spectrum of light. But these photographs from the Land Camera, while amazing, were not on film.
So, one day, my husband sent me a link about Mamiyas and medium film format. As I delved into this process further, I found myself lusting after what many would deem a classic camera used by legends: The Rolleiflex. And I got one. Like my land: I regarded this as a wonderful, mythical creature, in its twin reflex beauty. I imagined myself to be Richard Avedon --or better yet Fred Astaire playing a variation of Avedon, in Paris, shooting Audrey Hepburn with bunch of colorful balloons. Ah, I suppose I strive to live in an MGM musical, produced by Arthur Freed, ha. Without too much practice, I took my Rollei and my Land and my Contax to India and took some photographs. You realize, the square format of the medium format Rollei and the way it captures light is very cinematic. It is a very discreet machine, in that people barely notice you taking a photograph. Of course, that also means, more people are likely to walk across your frame and block, mid-way through the shot.
Anyhow, the idea ---is to capture these moments. Make my own album of moments so one day, my nephew or someone will look back and be the same way as I am looking at my mother's photographs: Ah that's how it was then. Until then, I will continue to preach the gospel of film. I think the kids these days will think it's a gas.