Photographer or collector?

It’s been a while that I have posted something here. The pandemic took (and still takes) its toll. Fortunately, neither me nor anybody of my family caught the virus (yet), but the mixture of homeoffice, homeschooling, homestaying and home-everything is racking our nerves. And although a restrictive lifestyle regarding travel, commuting, contacts with other people etc. seems the only appropriate measure to counteract the spread of COVID-19, we all suffer from these regulations since it is difficult for our minds to trick our evolutionary heritage. Humans have evolved to live in groups after all!

What does this have to do with my photography, you ask? A lot, because to be creative you need some freedom of mind, some brain capacity to be devoted to your creative task. When my day-to-day job in the Museum entered our home through the new homeoffice regulations the space for this freedom, this capacity got smaller…and it still does to this day. Less and less time to go out shooting, the best weather conditions pass by while you’re ZOOMing your life away in front of a computer screen, and even if you happen to have an hour or two for a short photowalk, you are too tired and your empty brain can’t be bothered to think about grabbing a camera, let alone stepping out and follow up on your last photo project.

And here we’re coming closer to the title of this post. For an ‘old-camera aficionado’ like me these times are dangerous. The ‘gear acquisition syndrome’ aka GAS likes it, when your mind is stressed out by daily routines and duties. It’s like the little devil on your shoulder saying: ‘Come on, you’ve been sitting the whole day in front of the computer…a few more moments to browse the latest offers at auction X or camera shop Y doesn’t make a difference’. Or: ‘ Your mood needs a little lifting. Don’t you remember the sweet feeling of bargaining a favourite camera online?’ Or: ‘You’ve been working so hard today and all the online meetings were so stressful, you should treat yourself with a little camera shopping, don’t you think?’ And so it goes on and on….

And that’s exactly what happened to me over the last couple of months resulting in an increase  of cameras, lenses and photo books in my collection, naturally ‘counterbalanced’ by a decrease in ouput. I couldn’t withstand the lulling voice of the devil on my shoulder. As outlined in an earlier post, I am not interested in regularly dusting items, which I own just for the sake of having them. It’s still my aspiration to use all cameras and lenses in my collection for proper photographic work. And so there are a few more little gems already loaded with film, amongst them an EXA 500 to finally make use of my CZJ 35mm f/2.8 Flektogon, and the iconic AGFA Optima 1035, a point-and-shoot from the 1970s with a fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens and a beautiful design. The top deal though was a camera I previously described as unnecessary or even useless for me, because I thought that with my Olympus 35 SP I already owned a rather similar one. But the offer was so good and the camera in such perfect condition that when I hold it in my hands while sitting in the kitchen of the seller and negotiating the price with her I already knew that I would never give it back again. Yes, you’re right, I bought my first Leica that day. An M2 from 1958 with a ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 Biogon lens. What a fantastic camera that is. Wearing glasses I still struggle a bit with the 35mm framelines as they almost touch the edges of the viewfinder, but this just needs getting used to.

Anything else? Oh yes… I sold my Canon AE1 program and one of my two Olympus 35 SP rangefinder cameras since neither was used over the last two years. And I finally repaired the bellows of two of my AGFA Isolettes (see posts “The Isolette and I” and “Isolette news”) so that all three of them are now in working condition waiting to be tested. Last not least, I decided to change my scanning workflow and to switch from my flatbed scanner to a digital camera at least for 35mm film. There are still some bits and pieces missing to start with it, but I am really looking forward to speeding up the rather boring scanning process and increasing the quality of my scans. As you will know, flatbeds are not the best choice for digitizing small film formats.

So, what am I? A photographer or a collector? I can easily live with being both! I love photography and I have plenty of ideas for future projects, which hopefully will find their way on to this website over time. And on the other hand I love old cameras and I probably won’t stop buying them, repairing them and using them to the best of my knowledge and capability. It all feels like playing, with the former being a more serious endeavour, the latter being the fun part.

 Alright, that’s it for now. Just a short update on GAS-related developments during the last months. I will certainly post more on my experience with the new cameras, but this has to be supported by images which currently are either still in camera or are waiting to be developed and scanned.

Stay safe and check in on Light & Grain for the next one.

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