It’s been years since I used a camera that required film. Hipsters and funksters still love shooting pictures with film; I was happy to see the technology pass into obscurity like record players, typewriters and trickle down economics. I’d heard people still liked the old-school feel of manual focus cameras and loved the pictures they record on their medium. But I didn’t realize there was still a market for these things.
I’m glad I opened my mind. Downstairs in our cluttered basement sat a clear plastic bag with an old Leica camera and lens. Useless, discarded, forgotten. In my wanderings around the web one recent day, I decided to see if things like this mattered to anyone anymore.
I guess they do. You can still use the optically precise lenses on current Leicas. Camera buffs eat these things up. The gentleman in Missouri who found my listing on eBay, paid us exactly what we paid for the camera 20 years ago, used. Not bad for something old, discarded and completely useless to our modern lifestyle.
Still, maybe I was being silly. Maybe I should think twice about discarding a precious relic from our past. It didn’t take up that much basement space; maybe I’ll use it again. To prove to our buyer that the camera still functioned, and to prove to myself it was time to let go, I decided to run an old, expired roll of film through it.
Easier said than done. After futzing around for about 10 minutes with the camera and some film found in the basement fridge, I sighed mightily and went to YouTube. There, I met modern technology explaining how to operate antique equipment. The dichotomy wasn’t lost on me (and yes, I was loading it right; I was just all fumbly-bumbly).
So here’s my exhalation of relief. Here’s my happy, heavy sigh. The pictures sucked.
Now, I’m not saying I put tons of effort in — I just snapped shots around the house. And we have to allow for the film being wildly outdated. But the difficulty loading the film was matched almost minute-for-minute by the troubles I had retrieving the film. Then there was the lag time between shooting the pictures, driving to Costco, waiting for them to be processed, burned to a disk and then loading them into the computer.
All that for results that seemed, well, “meh” as the kids say. They were scratchy and grainy with color that looked like it belonged in the 50s. The best I could do was convert them to black and white. Sure, they had an artsy, sort of mysterious quality to them and there’s no denying the retro feel. But for .99 cents, I have the same function on my iPhone Hipstamatic app, and the results are instantaneous.
I talked a little bit about this with friends on social media and we fell into a jag about all the nasty chemistry we had to use to get these results. Not only did we develop the film in poison, we printed endless series of darkroom prints in poison as well. Don’t forget all the wasted 8 X 10 chemical-drenched paper thrown into the trash when the key touchdown at the local high school game needed to “pop.” Several years ago a student did an experiment using Lake Ontario water sampled near the Kodak plant. Even though it took many hours, the researcher actually developed pictures using plain lake water.
I don’t even want to think about the insane toxins seeping into our bodies throughout the years. So yeah, I kissed the camera and the past goodbye.
And I welcomed, with a hug, my presently swelling PayPal account.