Monday, 13 October 2014

"They don't make that any more!"

"They don't make that any more" said the man passing me in the street, waving dismissively at the fresh roll of Tri-X that I was loading into one of my Leicas. "Really?" I said, "This must be a mirage then", holding up the new roll. "Ah", he said, with an air of absolute certainty, "but you can't get it developed any more". "Well in that case" I said, "once l've put this roll of imaginary film through the camera I'll just throw it in the bin". The passer-by looked at me as if I was quite mad, shook his head and strode on. He must have had the triple bypass; humour, charisma and irony, because he failed to grasp the reality of the situation and the fact that I was poking gentle fun at his lack of knowledge. (He was probably the chairman of the local camera club and these bypasses are a compulsory condition of membership). 
The Hayes, Cardiff, 2011

I really don't look to attract attention when I'm in my 'street photography' (not keen on that terminology but you know what I mean) mode and persona. I have enough of that when I'm using the 10" x 8" camera atop a nine foot tall tripod with me perched precariously on a stepladder. I am quite adept at being relatively inconspicuous when out and about. This is one of the reasons that I still prefer to use my older Leicas due to their 'retro' look that doesn't normally attract attention and their quiet and unobtrusive operation. I have been using them since the 1960's so feel very comfortable and familiar with them and their use. This means that I do not have to think too much about the camera and it's operation so I'm not attraction attention to myself while making pictures by fumbling with the mechanics. 

Queen Street, Cardiff, 2011
However, just recently I have been stopped a few times because it is just this retro look and the particular camera that has sparked some memories for a few older people. "Oh a Leica!" has become a phrase that I am beginning to dread now as I know that it will result in my having to stop and chat, show the cameras, explain what I'm doing and listen to tales of regret that the wonderful old Leica they had many years ago was got rid of to buy a new digi and they now regret it etc. etc. etc. I'm not a great one for camera chat but I am usually patient, polite, answer the questions then move on.

Like most photographers I enjoy the occasional change of pace and vision that using a different camera brings with it, which allows me the opportunity from time to time to make the kind of work that I made regularly in the 1960's and which still interests me now. 

Carmarthen, 2012
I have never been dogmatic about what equipment is 'right' for any job or aspect of photography, only that each photographer should select the most appropriate for them and what they are trying to achieve. Over the years I have used almost everything from half frame to 11" x 14" in addition to my new digital Leicas. Most recent work has been on the 10" x 8" but I enjoy getting to grips with the technicalities and idiosyncrasies of all formats and materials and using them when appropriate. Now, I had better order up some of that film that isn't made any more so I can throw it straight in the bin because it can't be processed!