March 30, 2012

something new

Recently, I took a little trip. Getting there involved a stop at my parents' house. There, I picked up my dad's old twin lens reflex -- a Yashica D. It had been collecting dust for years in my room. I brought it in there when I was in high school. Probably because I thought it looked "cool." Shortly after I burst through the back door, I said "Dad! Did you know that you can use a digital camera to take pictures using the lenses and viewfinders of old cameras?" (This concept is nowhere near new, but I had just come across it online. The process is referred to as Through the Viewfinder, or TtV, for short.) Then I prattled on, "Hey let's try this real quick wait lemme get your camera now focus the old camera and take a picture of what comes out on the viewfinder it's not working let me try stand over there yes I know you are back lit this picture is too dark i'm hungry lets go eat at that place you've been talking about."

Initially I gave TtV about 2 minutes of thought, and gave into my hunger, but when I was collecting things out of my old room to head back to Knoxville, I asked Dad if he minded if I took the camera. I figured he wouldn't, since he hasn't used it in eons, but he gets funny about things that are of his youth. I  got most of his old cameras and lenses with no wheedling. However, my dad is really holding out on letting me take custody of his record player, but that's another story. He said sure, picked the camera up, and said "Christmas 1965. $48." The Yashica D is special. It was my dad's first camera. Dad, if you're reading this, I'm taking very good care of it. I am making extreme efforts to keep track of the lens cap.

Back in Knoxville, I screwed the camera to my tripod and aimed it at my apartment window. Things began to look up. 

Then I tried to take a picture of myself. Things began to look down. 

I completely missed my face. And it's blurry.

When I went to work, I tucked the Yashica in my bag. If this current crazy spring weather was going to behave, I planned on taking a walk downtown after work to figure out what the big fuss is about TtV. Thirty to forty pictures later when the sun gave out, I finally had something worthwhile. The next day, I went to a different neighborhood in Knoxville and shot another 70. Out of 100 or so images, I got 10-12 that I truly like. I haven't decided if these images can be discreet art pieces, or if they are just tools and stepping stones, helping me think differently.

Channeling my inner Berenice Abbott

Regardless, the entire process is exciting. To some degree in the I-have-a-new-toy-to-play-with realm of infatuation, but in other ways as well. I've wanted to play with this camera for a little bit now, but the cost of film and processing might bankrupt me. This is a very low-cost approach to twin-lens photography. This process is not quick at all. in my post on cameras and nervousness, I admitted to wanting to feel less self conscious about walking around in public with a giant camera. There is not other way to shoot TtV unless you want to shoot apartment still lives or friends posing for you. This is definitely not a process for stealing quick shots out of car windows. I spent two afternoons walking around with not one but two cameras in tow, and didn't feel weird about it at all. the lens is fixed on the camera, and with the method that works for me, the camera is fixed at my waist. I have to work harder to get certain shots I want. With this camera, I can't just put on a different lens to get a closeup, or a wide shot. I can't hold the camera with one hand over my head to get a shot either. The viewfinder reverses all images. Left is right and right is left. I forget this every time when I focus the camera. I probably look like an idiot swaying back and forth on the sidewalk trying to remember which direction to move my body to get the lens to show what I want...ALL WHILE SQUINTING INTO THIS WEIRD BLACK BOX. Who cares. I'm having fun.

This process is forcing me to see differently, and allows me to manipulate my images differently. I made this the other night, after looking at all of my new pictures.

A small watercolor.