Monday, 23 January 2012

Don't Look Back In Anger

Nearly three years ago I was lucky enough to go to Thailand (Koh Tao) for a holiday. I decided to buy a camera to document my holiday so I picked up a fuji finepix and off I went on my travels. Two weeks later I had taken nearly 2000 images and realised that I had it on me at all times. On my return to the UK I decided that I needed something more versatile and bought myself a Canon 450D with a couple of kit lenses. It was around this time that I realised that photography was becoming such a big part of my life and offered me a freedom of expression that was missing in my life.

See this image in my flickr photostream

I loved my 450D but as with most things in life I soon wanted an even better camera and had my eye on a Canon 5D MKII. Nearly every photographer I know always wants a better more sophisticated camera, for me I knew I needed something that could handle low light conditions. I prefer shooting with natural light and naturally low light as a rule so eventually I got my 5DMKII which I love.

Last year I stumbled across the work of Vivian Maier, a street photographer of breathtaking brilliance, with an eye not just for light and composition but for humour and and an understanding of the human condition. In her life hardly anyone knew she took photos and her extensive body of work is only now coming to light after her death. The thing that strikes me about her story is that she never sought fame and used a camera that by today's standards was very basic. This contrasts with not only my circumstances but those of most of the photographers I know who are passionate about their craft.

This week saw Kodak file for bankruptcy protection. Having failed to move forward into the digital world of photography. The once huge company is now struggling as less and less photographers actually print anymore. I love the look of film and the aesthetics of vintage cameras like the one above which is a 1A Pocket Kodak Series II from around 1920. This is not the camera used so expertly by Vivian Maier but the basic workings are very similar. So here is the paradox for me; without digital I would never have discovered my love of photography and the type of imagery produced by Vivian Maier. Years ago I picked up a film camera at college, I hated the experience, I felt cheated. Not one part of the camera worked properly and no one offered me any guidance as to how to get round these issues. Film wasted, time wasted, no fun at all. 

I now have an urge to go and get a working film camera and re-learn everything and enjoy the magic of the unknown image hidden within. If there was a camera that could take high quality digital images and film images combined I would sell my soul for it. Maybe that's the way to save kodak a company who provided nearly all of us with the images in our family photo albums. So why not look back and look forward at the same time?