After years trying to make perfectly focussed and nicely exposed photographs, I’ve recently been looking to a simpler time; when photographs were out of focus, camera movement was the norm and light leaks were a feature, not a bug.
Looking around for a simple camera I originally bought a second-hand Polaroid 600, but the extortionate price of the films (about €20 for 8 exposures) proved a deterrent. So I thought long and hard and decided that film might be a better idea and to that end bought the simplest ‘new’ camera that I could find, the Lomography Diana F+, which I have only taken out a couple of times so far, mainly because it’s not responsible to go out too often during this pandemic.
My experiences with the Diana, and participating in several Facebook groups, whetted my appetite to try other cameras, and my next purchase was a second-hand Lomography Sprocket Rocket from Cano Amarelo, a fabulous shop in Porto that sells vintage and second-hand cameras. Then I discovered the Shitty Camera Challenge on Twitter, an informal competition that pits photographers against one another using ‘shitty’ cameras from days gone by.
I thought the Diana and the Sprocket Rocket were enough and I was all set for the #shittycamerachallenge but then, purely by chance, I came across the Finnish camera shop Kamerastore and its Outlet boxes. Every few months Kamerastore, in association with Camera Rescue, a non-profit that seeks to ‘preserve cameras for the future generations’ offer boxes of ‘heavily discounted camera gear’.
The boxes might contain cameras, lenses, flash units, bags, cases and a whole range more, and the cameras may be from the 1900s to the twenty-first century. Kamerastore is very clear that the outlet boxes are ‘sold in AS IS condition’ and Some items are completely useable [and] Some items are completely broken!’
A lot of the Outlet Boxes on the site were of ‘modern’ cameras, from the 1970s, 1980s and more recent, but one caught my eye. Box #1156 contained a number of box cameras and early-looking point and shoot cameras. This one piqued my interest, and as it had been reduced in price I took the plunge. I knew that the cameras might be broken, or might not work, but I figured that even with my limited mechanical know-how I could get some of these cameras working again.
After a week waiting urgently for the package to arrive, I returned from shopping one day to find a parcel waiting for me. It was heavy, more heavy than I had expected, and … metallic?
Slicing the plastic wrapping open, inside I found a camera case, an actual camera suitcase! ‘What on earth?’ I wondered.
Opening the case, inside I found packing, and under the packing was the most beautiful collection of cameras.
Dating from the first days of popular photography to, most likely, the 1950s or 1960s, was an instant collection of film cameras. Exclusively medium format, including at least one 620 film camera, the cameras were mostly in working order, and I knew that it would be a delight to enable them to do what they were designed to do one again: take photographs.