Yesterday I ordered a Canon AE1-Program with 50mm F1.8 lens on eBay. Why did I do such a thing?
The benefits of digital photography are legion and I don’t intend to start a film vs digital debate here. For most people and most purposes, digital won. The end. Or is it?
Many technologies have been replaced or superseded. Does that make them useless? Does it make them irrelevant? It would seem not.
Diesel and latterly electric trains have not persuaded steam enthusiasts that their fascination with old engines is folly.
A decent quartz watch keeps better time than almost any mechanical one. People nonetheless pay thousands of pounds to own a miniature piece of precision mechanical engineering from Breitling, Omega, Rolex et al.
The convenience and reliability of CDs and now MP3s has not persuaded vinyl lovers to ditch their turntables. And ask any guitarist if he’d rather have transistors or valves (tubes) in his amplifier.
Age doesn’t not inherently confer irrelevance but the manufacturers of electronic devices and equipment would like you to think otherwise.
With their planned obsolescence strategies, products designed to fail after a certain time and relentless marketing campaigns, these companies (unknowingly?) conspire to reduce the enjoyment of your purchases and keep you looking to the next thing.
Many of today’s bloggers and podcasters are unwitting co-conspirators in this. Sure talk of new gear is exciting and people want to hear about it. It’s their talk of “old” gear that concerns me.
One podcaster was heard to give his young son his “Old Nikon D90 which was lying around gathering dust.” The D90 is a 2008 vintage camera. It is my main camera and it takes wonderful pictures, in absolute terms, not just for a 2008 model.
“Oh and look, should you choose to upgrade your knackered, 18 month old piece o’ junk, click on my Amazon affiliate link would you.”
Consumerism gone absofrickinlutely mental.
The other thing I have noted of late is the Instagram induced vintage filter craze. Everyone is at it, making their work look like it came from a bygone era. Why?
My feeling, based on no research at all but plenty of day to day observation, is that this is a hankering for “realness”. Everything over the last few years has been turned upside down. No one trusts their Government, no one trusts their Banks. If only things were simpler. There is a feeling that images created today lack authenticity. If only things were like the good old days.
The good old days. There are plenty of books and articles on nostalgia but one of the key elements is that you survived the past. The fact you’re reading this proves it. The future though….there are no guarantees about that.
In the good old days, there wasn’t any of this “virtual nonsense”. You took a photo with a camera that went click because that’s what it did, rather than having the sound piped out of a speaker. Then you gave your actual film to an actual person and actually had it developed.
When you received either you slides or your prints back, you actually had a physical thing to hold. The unique chemistry of your choice of film imparted the image with certain qualities in terms of grain, sharpness and saturation.
While probably not realising it so keenly at the time, this made images that now evoke a time and place. To understand what I mean, search for photos of Americana, shot on Kodachrome.
Digital images however come out of the camera feeling somewhat nondescript. Sharp and clear yes, but hardly evocative.
With Instagram or one of the many other filters, you can get “authenticity” at the touch of a button. Make it feel like it came from an age when some things could be relied upon. When there were fewer uncertainties.
And so we come to my new (old) camera. I’ve become wearied of the cycle of higher megapixels, faster computers, bigger hard drives, more buttons and ultimately less fun.
I fancied buying a camera that would outlast the latest fad in digital processing. I wanted something that feels real in the hand. Something less automated. Something less forgiving of ignorance. A camera where pressing the shutter has a consequence. Where the photos come out with a certain look because that’s the nature of that film stock. Where “authenticity” cannot be applied with the click of a mouse.
Digital will remain my main medium but it will be fun to play with the old way of doing things.
I started out on film at the age of 5 on an old Instamatic camera. I watched my Dad use Canon A1s and T90s in the 80’s and an EOS 5 in the 90’s. In ’99 I bought an EOS 3000 and used it until 2004 when I switched to digital.
In a way, this purchase is only 50% about photography. The balance being a middle finger to the instant gratification throwaway world we find ourselves living in.
Here’s to authenticity.