What’s in my camera bag? Part 4: Diana F+

And so, we come to my favourite camera, the jewel in my photography crown (my cheap blue rucksack). It’s one of a limited run of 1000 “Explorer Nocturne” Diana F+ cameras made by Lomographische AG, based on the Great Wall Plastic Factory‘s original Diana box camera, a cheap camera (mostly sold as a novelty item or even given out as prizes at carnivals and funfairs) whose production run (and that of its imitators) appears to have ceased in the 1970s. While I believe 35mm variants of both the original and modern versions of the camera exist, mine shoots medium-format 120 film.

Despite the modern “Diana+” having been upgraded from box to system camera (technically), it still “suffers” from the characteristic blurriness/softness of focus, colour fringing, abnormalities in colour rendition, vignetting, and light leaks associated with the original. Of course, these inclusions are the product of technical flaws in the physical process of capturing the image, and as such if taking flawless photos is your thing, this is not the camera for you. But this (to the converted, at least) is their very appeal. In the age of photoshop and DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses; large, high-end sensors; and megapixel counts approaching 50 (such as the Nikon D850), one would struggle greatly to justify the use of analogue cameras at all if it weren’t for these most perfect imperfections, a “fingerprint” of not only the model used, but even of a particular camera itself.

As I have previously discussed, I am particularly fond of artistic and abstract photography in general (much more so than I am of the various forms of “documentary” photography in which technicality can so easily take precedence over aesthetic), and 19th and 20th century pictorialism and the “are-bure-bokeh” style of the Japanese Provoke photographers in particular. This camera’s “flaws”, when embraced and even exploited and intentionally exaggerated can have a significant artistic effect. What’s more, the manual winding of film allows for multiple exposures in a single frame, which can make for some particularly interesting effects (see example below). The addition of its beautiful looking flash, which has a slit for gel filters, further enhances the photos dream-like qualities by allowing “colour-splashing” images.

Beyond the benefits of digital photography I have previously discussed, I would argue that the greatest downfall of analogue photography is faced if one has to rely on external companies for the development, scanning, and printing of your rolls. I am currently researching the best development tanks and chemicals for developing my own photos at home, as well as researching scanners and scanning frames for 120 film, due to having had no end of trouble with my local photo shops. Firstly, it is exceptionally expensive: £17/$22 per roll. Secondly, 120 is often no longer developed in-house (it’s a fairly rare film format nowadays), and so I have to wait at least a week for my negatives to be ready for scanning. Then the scan itself presents the largest problem: I have had to return three times already for my most recent prints, which firstly were scanned at too low a resolution and printed very poorly, the next time they were correctly scanned but photos were missing, and those that hadn’t been lost were incorrectly cut (and somebody has put something sticky on my precious negatives!), and as such I am still awaiting my most recent photos as this “goes to press”. The truth is, the modern day photo shop is dying. The staff are often unfamiliar with handling film as it is seldom used, and as such the product is frankly sub-standard. If you are lucky enough to have a local shop that is still run by genuine enthusiasts who live for photography and take great pride in their product, please do everything you can to support them, and let me know where I can find them!

But, as they say, one sometimes has to suffer for their art…


Reunión (2017).


Hogar (2017).

 

Find more of my work here.

 

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What’s in my camera bag? Part 3: Canon Powershot A590IS

The next item I’ll be going into depth on is my digital camera, the very compact Canon Powershot A590IS. I much prefer shooting analogue photos, particularly 120 film, but there are times a digital camera is the more appropriate choice. Some of the more obvious benefits of going digital include: quickly, cheaply, and easily accessing, sharing, and printing photos (one roll of Ilford 120 film costs me around £4, or slightly less if bought in bulk, and cost a further £15 each to have developed and printed… which, needing to be taken to a specialist, takes over a week); the ability to take many photos in quick succession and delete them at will when/if one runs out of memory (my analogue camera is currently set up with a frame that allows 12 photos per roll); and being able to change settings such as ISO at the touch of a button (unlike analogue rolls, which determine ISO, and thus must be changed for a different visual effect).

Whilst many would argue that the digital camera has made the analogue options redundant, but I couldn’t disagree more. I grew up regularly visiting my local Tate Modern, and the Guggenheim and MACBA when visiting my Spanish family each summer (amongst many other local and international modern and contemporary art institutions), so it is perhaps natural that I gravitate towards the abstract over the precise, the emotive over the technical, and spontaneity over calculation, something clearly reflected in my tastes in photography; I love light leaks, natural soft focus, motion blur, and other “unwanted” inclusions that occur naturally, particularly with the more primitive box-cameras, but more on this when I come to cover my beloved Diana.

No photographers’ work has ever captured my attention more than that of the Japanese Provoke artists – Daidō Moriyama being my favourite photographer of all time – and so it seems only fitting that, an unconscious homage of sorts, I too should take the first camera I was given and stick to it.

I got it as a gift, but when I used it, it was unexpectedly good. Any camera is fine. It is only the means of taking a photo. – Daidō Moriyama

And this first camera was the Canon Powershot A590IS, a gift for my 15th birthday (almost a decade ago), chosen by my mother (a very good photographer herself, and undoubtedly her wonderful choice is also partially to thank for my never having felt the need to change camera), and with which all my digital photographs have been taken since. It’s joined me on all of my travels, both national and intercontinental, and as practical as it is – being a compact camera – comes wherever my analogue camera goes too.

It has absolutely everything I could possibly need: a viewfinder (though I sometimes also take “no-finder” shots) and control over the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. The camera is “only” 8 megapixels, though pixel size says very little about an image’s quality (for all you mobile-phone photographers out there), but takes great photos without the need for any photo editing or manipulation, something very important to me. After all, every minute spent learning and using photoshop and similar packages are a million moments I won’t capture, so I much prefer spending that time roaming, camera in hand:

Time past is expunged in favour of a permanent present. The PROVOKE photographers viewed the act of pressing the shutter as affirmation of their ‘own immediate reality, and no one else’s’. – Kazuo Nishii

Anyway, if a picture is worth a thousand words, let me leave you with two thousand of my own:

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Nami (2017).

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Iceland (2011).

 

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