The benefits of being grown up
When I was a kid in the 1970s I used to go to jumble sales with my mother and occasionally there would be secondhand cameras, which always drew my attention.
The fact that they were at a price I could afford put the dream of owning my very own camera within reach.
I bought a very handsome Kodak Brownie simply because it looked good and got one of the many Diana-style plastic medium format cameras that were around at the time. Other kids looked down on me with contempt – old cameras were useless in their opinion and so was anyone who bought one.
To be honest, I only ever put one of those jumble sale cameras to use – a plastic medium format Diana-style model. I managed to get my hands on a black and white 120 roll and did some shooting. The results were not great.
I was also given a book called Pocket Money Photography by Christopher Wright. This little paperback explained how to make a pinhole camera using photographic paper and the basics of darkroom processing. It even explained how to develop a 120 black and white film without a film tank. I tried it – it worked but it wasn’t particularly easy.
Sadly, photography was too expensive for a kid with limited pocket money and I turned my mind to other things.
Now we leap forward in time to the mid noughties Digital cameras were suddenly the only thing to be using and film was apparently very dead indeed. I joined the digital revolution, gave away my 35mm compact and uploaded digital images to MySpace like crazy. If someone had told me that I’d be using film again within five years I would have laughed at them until they cried.
In 2009 I was looking round a very trendy shop in Glasgow and noticed a plastic fisheye camera for about £40. This excited me – the prospect of getting fisheye images without spending hundreds on a specialised lens certainly appealed so I looked closer. Then I realised it used film and was immediately put it back on the shelf with disgust. I had no desire to start shelling out for film processing and scanning thank you very much.
However, over the next year or so I began to notice more curious plastic film cameras made by an organisation called Lomography. I also saw wonderfully made pinhole cameras and secretly wanted to join the party...
Then, in 2010, I got my hands on a digital film scanner. Suddenly I had the means to scan negatives myself and share them online – I don’t even have to switch off the lights, let alone set up a darkroom. That was it – I made myself a cardboard pinhole camera to carry 35mm film, found it worked and began to enjoy myself.
Conversations with a professional photographer friend led to the gift of a Patterson film tank left over from “the old days” and I was able to set myself up to process black and white negatives. Al last I could allow myself to start experimenting with the vintage cameras I’d admired since I was a kid. I now carry a digital SLR, a Lomo LC-A+ loaded with slide film and usually another film camera, depending on my mood.
They say childhood is the happiest time of your life but there are a few benefits of being grown up...