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Photography | The right way…or the wrong way?

This seems like an open invitation to question ability…..far from it !

Commercial photography (in my opinion) has taken a huge kick in the balls. Why? The Point & Shoot Digital Camera available at any good high street store and even local shops and
filling stations.The days of my childhood meant walking through the Lake District with my grandfather for what seemed miles, and if the truth be known too damn far, with a Zenit SLR camera over his shoulder and a Boots 110 Camera somewhere in my rucksack. The envy was unbearable….his Single Lens Reflex Camera was my obsession, I wanted one of these and I wanted it now.

I had no idea how to use it; not a clue and heaven knows what I would have done if he let me take a photograph with it.  I would have probably dropped it in shock. The Zenit E SLR Camera was like a house brick.

Prague, August 1968. As Soviet tanks drive through the long, broad streets of the Czechoslovakian capital, cameras capture all. Amidst the outrage of Prague’s population, who vehemently protest against the impending curbing of heir freedoms, Zenit-E’s do their work, like they did many times before and many times since. With more than seventeen million Zenit-E clones produced over several decades, the universal E easily ranks in the top ten of Europe’s most popular amateur SLRs. Its popularity is not hard to explain. Couple a reasonable reliability to a fair level of technology and an extremely low price, and success guaranteed.

These days, Zenit-E’s show up all over the place on Europe’s scrap heaps, junk yards and flea markets. Photo stores haven’t burnt their hands on second-hand M42 stuff since the 1980’s,  but it’s not uncommon to come across one or two of these one-kilo molochs at flea markets or garden sales or other attic clean-out fairs. With manual photography as good as dead – which,  for that matter, goes for the whole of analogue photography, as far as the amateur market is concerned – it’s no wonder people are trying to make a buck out of their oldtimers, that served them in Odessa, Rimini, Benidorm, Mallorca and the other palm tree hot spots of the seventies. Picture taking, that’s what the E’s did. They did their job, without frills. With their edgy and  somewhat awkward Soviet design, slightly reminiscent of the first Leicaflex, they weren’t as esthetic or as technically ahead as Japanese models, but this was the camera the common man used. Mmmmmm did this mean I was common? Did this mean my Grandad was common? I dont think so, SLR cameras were SLR cameras in those days, I had no competition….well not yet anyway, that was to come later.

I was introduced to Agfa Chrome CT-18 Slide film….wow, now theres a blast from my past.  This was slide film…back in those days you could pick up negative film that cost about 70p a roll and you even got free film if you used a company called Truprint…but this was different, it was slide film and it cost £5.49 a roll and why I here you ask? Because it included processing ! You had to put the finished film into an envelope and send it away to AGFA. It would return 4 or 5 days later in a plastic packet with a slide box inside. Over the years the box changed from a square sided rectangular affair to a thinner/longer design that apparently was re-designed to fit through modern day letter boxes. My late grandfather used to see the bright orange plastic wrapping and say it looked like a candy bar. He used to make me laugh, there were times when he would finish rolls of film whilst on his holidays and post them to Agfa from the nearest post box. This would often lead to some of the slides been returned and available when he returned from his holiday. He used to leave a sponge mat on the floor under the letterbox to avoid them getting damaged, The four foot drop was obviously of concern.

We were often invited over to my Grandparents house on a winters evening, or they would come to us depending on circumstances, what circumstances I dont know, but thats what was said. I always remember seeing the slide magazines stacked up containing  Grandads best slides….it was quite entertaining, I loved it, and in the end I learned alot from it. It also meant we got to go to bed late, which was a bonus.

When I think back to the days of slide film and the way I was taught it actually gave me a good grounding and understanding of photography and light. Everything had to be so precise with exposure. There was no leeway when it came to using the available light, we didnt have a tripod, we had no alternate lenses, we just had to use what we brought with us. Which was a camera a lense and an extra lightmeter.

This had added complications. Photography had to be precise, exact, spot on or what ever you may call it.  Exposire had to be perfect and you had to make sure you used the correct shutter speed. If you are reading this as someone who has only ever used a digital camera or are too young to know what it was like to use film in  a camera then let me explains further. If you set the exposure value wrong on the camera then your image would either be too dark or too light !! So, I hear you say…well, you wouldnt know this until 10 days later when the slides bounced through the letterbox and they were all runied. Digital cameras have a lot to answer for don’t they? I think we may even take them for granted in todays world.

So thats where it all began…slides, slides and more slides. Thousands of them all neat, sequential and numbered in their blue and white frames. After all these years should I be questioning my ability..far from it…I have been and done it and come back with more that just a T-Shirt as well but more on that in my next blog.

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