Life Through Vintage Lenses
My grandparents’ house in Maryborough is empty and on the market for the first time ever. It was the house my Dad and my Aunty were raised in, a house my grandparents built themselves. I was up there a couple of weekends ago, doing my share of the organising and cleaning — I was on clothes and kitch-stuff duty. We came home with plastic tumblers, knitting patterns, lots of cardigans and polyester dresses, and some cameras.
My grandfather, Pa, was a keen photographer — an amateur photographer you might say. Johnny brought it up the other day when I showed he, Kasia and Jane the cameras, that “everyone has a digital camera these days and it’s cheap, so you don’t think about it. Back then, cameras and photographs really were an investment of time and money, so if you weren’t professional, you were a card-carrying ameteur photographer.” Altogether there were three cameras, a Baby Brownie Special, a Voigtlander VF 101 and a Minolta XG-M. You can see how Pa’s knowledge of photography grew, from the inexpensive “point-and-shoot” Brownie, to the Minolta SLR, a camera that lets you have complete control over every aspect of your shot.
It’s weird to own these cameras. Not because my photography skills consist entirely of holding my breath while I release the shutter, but because… they’re Pa’s. There’s a part of me that feels utterly terrible for removing them from the house, as if putting them back on top of the wardrobe will mean that Pa will be the next person to reach them down and the house in Maryborough will go back to just the way it was, complete with grandparents. It’s not going to happen and if there was one thing that both Gran and Pa weren’t into, it was letting things go to waste. These cameras work, the flashes they were stored with work, all the parts are there and they take beautiful pictures that I just didn’t appreciate enough during Slide Night as a kid.
Neil and I have done lots of research about these cameras and how to bring them into the 21st century, where film teeters seemingly on extinction and parts are impossible to find. Mum and Dad are quite excited by our enthusiasm as well, so they gave us their Minolta 110 SLR (I learned that it’s a pretty crazy camera. 110 is cartridge film often found in spy cameras and it has an SLR lens) and informed us of a Box Brownie hiding up in Gymbowen somewhere. Our vintage/retro camera collection went two cameras (an easy and cheap point-and-shoot Kodak, plus our $2 Polaroid) to six.
We plan on exploring these cameras and there’s been a lot of things we’ve had to learn, so I want to share them as well. I’m taking the Voigtlander out this weekend so I’ll let you know about my mods to the camera and the results.
And then, somewhere, there’s a couple watching over us, looking forward to Slide Night.