This is a rant dedicated to all the people who are missing the main focus of the primary photographic tool. This is a rant dedicated to all the people, especially photographers, who are using analog cameras as props, as vintage decorations, and not giving them the respect they deserve. This is a rant directed at all the people who worry about having the latest and greatest camera gear, even when the history of photography has shown us that the camera is just a tool a photographer uses to capture meaningful work.
If you’re passionate about photography, it’s highly likely that at some point you’ve been curious to know how images were captured before digital sensors existed. The beautiful thing about analog gear, no matter how old it is, is that light is captured using the same physical principles. So it really doesn’t matter what camera you stumble onto – you just need to know the mechanics of the tool to achieve a desired result.
Main Focus of the Tool
The main focus of every photographic tool is, and always will be, to reproduce reality through images that depend on exposure calculations that exceed the capabilities of human eye. Therefore, it is pointless to think that meaningful work depends on having the latest and greatest gear out there. Use whatever you have when stumbling into those moments.
My own experience with Analog Gear
My experience with analog photography came after the onset of digital, so I did things the other way around. My everyday camera is still a digital one. But analog gear has given me extremely joyful experiences thanks to its therapeutic, slow-paced way of producing a tangible image. After watching this movie, I got pretty interested in how pictures were made before photographers couldn’t see anything on an LCD screen. I researched a bit and was given a camera that was wrecked – with one condition: to get it repaired. I asked a few questions and got to meet a camera restorer in my country. After the camera’s resurrection, I started snapping some black-and-white film using the same exposure logic I’d learned with digital. The results were decent – but my craving didn’t stop there. I learned to develop film. Nowadays my scope reaches print, and I love it.
My rant was born thanks to the many pictures of photographers using analog cameras as props when they could also be enjoying the brilliance of analogue photography. I’ve never stopped feeling a sense of magic when I develop a film. Especially when I get my roll of film out of the developing tank and start seeing those images with my eyes. I enjoy it so much that I teach my friends how to develop film, for free, if they've never seen the process with their own eyes.
My prime goal is not to be a purist. My main objective is to invite you guys who are using analog cameras as props for your portraits and related stuff to actually use one of those beautiful cameras to make pictures.
To this day, I use three analogue cameras to make images that give me joy in addition to my regular street work:
Camera as an Object
It’s fascinating to see how people can transform almost anything into a camera. People like Carlos Jurado take the premise of "every exposure setting will work on any camera" to the next level by almost any object the mechanic of a camera.
It’s interesting to learn how the famous images we most admire were made using less-capable technological tools. It’s still easy to get a secondhand analog camera on eBay or some local shop. I'm not advising you to migrate from one format to another – I'm just saying that different formats can coexist in a photographer's life, and the results can be rewarding in terms of creativity, self-expression and self-imposed challenges.
Examples of Fine Art work
Some great examples of people making fine art work with analog gear (there are a lot, but for illustration purposes I'm just mentioning three) are Chema Madoz, Alexey Titarenko and Michael Kenna.
- Chema Madoz: Surrealism is not some weird abstraction for me. For me, surrealism exists when an artist gets to see mind-blowing juxtapositions or personifications that seem so obvious, but never cross our minds. Chema Madoz is one of those artists, and his favorite tool for creating his art is a second-hand Hasselblad medium-format camera he bought back in the ‘nineties.
- Alexey Titarenko: Alexey Titarenko is another photographer who uses a Hasselblad film camera, as you can see in this video. But the scope of his passion covers everything from the shot to the last print.
- Michael Kenna: Everything has probably been said about this magnificent contemporary photographer, but what he has to say about photography and about all the beautiful things surrounding it is priceless. We tend to forget about connecting with other cultures, and I’m sure this guy enjoy his travelling more because he doesn’t have to worry about carrying several camera bodies and lenses. A minimal setup is key to enjoying photography.
So, if you have access to analog gear, don’t limit its existence to prop usage. Give it a new opportunity to play a role in your creative life. If it works by itself, good. If it needs a little love, get it repaired. These bad boys were made with such enviable quality mindsets that they could last forever after some minor restoring maneuvers.