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The return of an old friend…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – I used to be a photographer.

I was not, am not, and have no aspirations to be a commercial photographer. I studied what was essentially a ‘fine art’ (I’m not a lover of the phrase so won’t bore you with any post-modernist critique) photography degree. It was the best on offer in the country at the time (and probably still is), and I continued to do it for a few years afterwards. However, when your passion is something that’s very difficult to turn into cold hard cash (I didn’t fancy teaching at the time which is what most of my peers gravitated towards) – it doesn’t take long before work, your social life, and sooner, or later kids come along.

I never left it completely, I just never did it (by my own definition) ‘seriously’ since just after my mid 20`s. I’ve always loved the medium, I always look at the photography I see with a critical eye, and I’ve kept my hand in, and periodically re-kindled my interest, through some occasional teaching (until I left the UK). I’ve just not DONE it.

I don’t know why, maybe it’s the onset of a mid-life crisis, but  I’ve recently felt the need to start to pick up where I left off. I haven’t been bereft of ideas for projects I’d like to do – just to damned busy and other priorities take over – it’s all to easy to let them. The passion has re-awoken in me so much to the point that I’m wondering now if I should not have allowed myself distractions, and if maybe, just maybe I’ve not been doing all these years the one thing I should have been.

For now at least my digital camera has been shelved. I’ve nothing against digital, the world is a better place for it. It’s made photography more accessible, has revolutionised the commercial photography world, brought down costs, sped up news delivery, and another million and one positives. Just rattle away until you get the picture you want – it costs nothing. It’s incredible…

But, I been having a burning desire to go ‘old school’. To use something mechanical again, to get my hands dirty…

I crave the restrictions of the old methods, like having to make every exposure count and waiting to see if you got what you planned to achieve. There was an inherent challenge in the craft of the whole process that I just don’t enjoy with digital. Do I really want to play with RAW files when I spend most of my working life at a screen? No. Zero pleasure or fascination for me.

I want to wait with anticipation to see negatives, I’d like once again to see the images emerging like magic from the paper – nobody ever forgets the first time they saw it.

Now, to my old friend – just arrived today is my Bronica GS1. Which must be 25 years old now (maybe more – I bought it second hand). A real camera, which fires with a clunk, it weighs a ton, and now there’s no 220 has to have the film (remember that stuff?) changed every 10 exposures with a 120 back.

In a way it’s a trip back to the Kodak Brownie I was given as a kid, a trip back to the past – but it’s not – it’s a things of beauty, a masterpiece of engineering, it has no robotic “I’ll take over if you can’t work out the exposure because the lighting is a bit weird” setting. It has proper f stops, a shutter speed and a focus ring -you have to think for yourself rather than let some little robot work it all out for you. I love that about it. It’s not a step back to the past – it’s a step back to purity for me…

Anyone who’s ever known me as a photographer will tell you I’m not the ‘technical’ type – I loathe all that geeky stuff – it works or it doesn’t – it’s what you point it at that counts. As with any camera – this one a tool – but of the many I have had, this is the one I love most !

I can’t wait to reacquaint myself with it – but don’t expect any instant results – it doesn’t work like that! 🙂

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