Over on the face-book-face I joined a group called Lo-Fi Photography Newcastle. I’m not entirely in agreement with the name as the main interest there is film photography, albeit film photography with smashed-up plastic lenses and light leaks. But it’s all good.
For a while I was a lurker, liking* stuff with great enthusiasm but no creative contributions to speak of. Recently, Chris Trew, the group founder, resurrected the group meeting and with mention of a “photowalk” rekindled my desire to capture and render visual moments in unusual ways. On 11/11/12 I joined three very nice people on a cold but interesting walk, taking photographs with old and pretendy-old cameras around Whitley Bay. Now, I had decided to use my dad’s old (recently restored) Comet S 127 camera, made by bencini in Milan in 1950.
Again, this is not a piece of low-fidelity equipment, however I had the hope that the expired (1993) Kodacolor 127 film would add a bit of pseudo-randomness to the image capture. I was also very curious to see what kind of images the manual focus (3ft to ∞) lens would produce. Procuring the film was an adventure in itself; a lesson in how not to go about buying expired film in archaic formats, perhaps a subject for another post.
Following an incident-free loading of the film into the camera, I began winding on until the various symbols I’d read about on the Web began to appear in the viewing windows on the back. There are two view ports on the back of a Comet S; what could it mean? My main question was, should the frame number be read in the left or right window? I chose the right and wound on.
Walking around the seaside I found that everyone else was enthusiastic about taking snaps of this and that… and that over there, while I was looking but feeling no urge to photograph. I was aware that this wasn’t my phone’s camera with capacity for 10,000 images and rather enjoyed remembering this slightly modified feeling from the old days, but that wasn’t the real reason for my reserve. When I first began taking (real) lo-fi images with my siPix pocket camera back in 2002 I would always feel a connection between my self and something worth capturing; nine times out of ten this would prove reliable. At the moment I got “the feeling”, I would take the picture, without using any kind of viewfinder. It was just a feeling I knew. That feeling wasn’t happening on the photo walk. Eventually I thought my companions were beginning to notice I wasn’t clicking away, so I started clicking away. Self-betrayal! Don’t do it! Here, have a couple of double-exposures for a laugh.
The numbers on Kodakcolor Gold 127 film run like this: 1 1 | 2 2 | 3 3 | 4 4 | 5 5 | 6 6 | 7 7 | 8 8 | HA HA YOU ONLY TOOK EIGHT PHOTOS – - – - – - In fact one does not choose a window (as you knew all along) and run through the numbers incrementally. No. With a Comet S, one takes one’s first image when the number 1 is in the left window, then proceeds to wind the film on until that 1 is in the right window with another 1 in the left window, at which point one records image number two. To take image number three, one winds the film until the left 1 is in the right window and the number 2 can be seen in the left window. Image four is indicated by 2 in the right window and 2 in the left and so on and so forth and it’s quite clever and I’ve only just realised that while writing this text and lo, it was ever thus. This way, it is possible to record sixteen images — some of which should be of quite high quality, if one remains steadfast and true — as opposed to eight of low quality. Not low fidelity. Low quality. Eight low quality, fake photographs by a fading shadow of a man. Of course, after the film had laughed at me I began to see things worthy of capture. Good to know the feeling still exists. I switched to the trusty backup of using my phone to shoot digital pictures through the right eyepiece of a pair of Chinon 8 x 30 binoculars.
With an alarming sense of inevitability, I granted facebook access to a third-party application called How Hipster Are You? Obvs I did, I’ve been taking shit pictures since before you were born. With satisfying hilarity I scored 76% Hipster! “TOTALLY a Hipster!” One person commented that they knew this already, another that this was impressive; something in my mind clicked as I felt a shift in perspective. I wrote the following comment:
As the book says, Dads are the Original Hipsters. I learned something rather important while out on the photowalk in Whitley Bay ten days ago (and in the time subsequently); gained some perspective, one might say. Two of the group were, I think, people who probably get referred to as “Hipsters” – perhaps by folks my age who remember cassette tapes and film “the first time round” and feel a bit embittered that they didn’t have access to the kind of mass-publishing network the young’ns have now – but when you look at their approach to creativity, it’s fondness for older technologies, it’s reluctance to be part of the mainstream yet somehow being part of an externally imposed movement, making new work from current ideas mixed with more fluid media of the past… we really have a lot in common. Being quite like the bedroom artists of the late 80s and early 90s, but with visibility, they have a very valid and potent aesthetic and I think that the cry of “hipster, please!” comes mainly from past-it has-beens wishing they’d had the Web and an iPhone when they were 20 years old, or young, passive consumers of mainstream media who’ve had all the creative will sucked† out of them by never really having to do anything for their daily dose of media. I may have seen the techniques before but I’m only just starting to see what this new generation can produce with them and it’s very exciting. Plus, as an “Original Hipster” it is jarring to realise that I’m old enough to be the father of either of those two, but if I had kids like that I’d be very proud indeed.
Unwieldy, repeating myself and labouring the point a bit, but that’s essentially how I feel.
It’s now ten years since I made my siPix cam scrapbook Web site and in honour of this and by way of contributing something new old-stock to the Lo-Fi Photography Group, I’ve decided to upload it to hd41117.com for your delectation. Dear reader. Look, I have your nose! There, I’ve put it back. The logo on the bottom left of the site was once a link back to trakta.com, my main Web presence back when I was still performing audio and visual Electronica. Back in the day. Before you.
siPix cam scrapbook: http://hd41117.com/sipix/