Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Why I love my camera

When I lived in Manchester, I had a second-hand Pentax K-1000. I bought it for £100 from a camera shop in Chester, and for about two years, wherever I went, so did the camera. Everything seemed to look better through a lens. 

Halloween, Manchester 2006
All images copyright Elly Strigner 2006

Studio, Manchester 2007
All images copyright Elly Strigner 2006

Then, one day, I went to Stoke-On-Trent to take some pictures for a project I was doing for a local record label. I set up my tripod outside the bus station in Hanley, adjusted the aperture, focused, pressed the button - and nothing happened. No satisfying click. No soft mechanical purr as I tried to wind the film on. The lever had jammed. When I took it into the camera shop, they said it was dead. It was a sad day.

(Artwork for SONS, Manchester/Stoke-On-Trent, 2006 - 2007. Copyright Elly Strigner)

No other camera after that seemed to match up. I used a pretty handy digital camera for a while, and that broke fairly quickly - anyway, I never quite got to grips with it, nor managed to take any pictures with the same depth as the Pentax. My Mum lent me her old digital camera (it looked like a silver Duplo block) but it had a habit of running out of juice really quickly - highly frustrating. Any digital cameras I used seemed to give me a headache. I realize how purist this may sound, but I'm not anti-technology - I was just really familiar with my manual camera. I knew how to get the best from it. We were friends.

After that I used my mobile phone for ages. It was just depressing - everything comes out looking like something from a low-budget horror film.

(A David Lynch banana split, taken on my mobile, 2010)

Then, last year, I went to San Francisco on a trip with the University. It was image overload - I saw things everywhere that I wanted to photograph, from people to cracks in the pavement to huge public sculptures. I took a diary with me, borrowed my Mum's camera again and did end up taking heaps of pictures on my phone, but the whole time I was there, the same thought kept running through my head like a reel. 'I should have my camera with me. I should have my camera with me. I should have my camera with me'.

(San Francisco, 2011)

I couldn't hold back any longer. The day after I got home, although I was skint, I went into my local camera shop and bought another Pentax (a p30). I felt a weird mix of relief and excitement as I loaded my first reel of film and snapped the lid shut - and a new era was born. 

(Littlehampton, Norfolk, Brighton, MA studio, 2011 - 2012)

I've moved on to a digital camera now, too - one that I actually like (a wee Nikon coolpix). I have to say we get on very well - but there's a special place in my heart for the Pentax. 
Here's the thing. Sometimes I get despondent, when I think I don't see, or can't, or won't remember, all the millions of tiny details that are around me all the time. But having a camera reminds me to look at everything - and it also reminds me how much stuff I do notice. Sometimes you have to get from A to B on a straight path, and not get distracted...but sometimes it's better to stop and look at everything. Examine things. Load the film, wind it on, keep your eye on whatever you can see before it disappears. That's what my camera makes me do, and that's why I love it. 

No comments: