You possibly cannot imagine how happy I was, when as a high school student I acquired my first camera. Back then, of course, I had no faintest idea of photography; I was not even aware of existence of such terms as “aperture” or “a shutter”, let alone making use of them! Surely: if you ask me, who’s to blame, I would without hesitation point my finger at myself, as my initial understanding of picture taking didn’t differ much from how people think of it nowadays, when they take out their iPhone from a pocket. It’s obvious — just point and shoot! 🙂
And so I did. I had plenty of free time, I had the equipement, and I had some suspicious need of visualizing everything which seemed worth being photographed. Even if it wasn’t. Spray and pray quickly (however, unwittingly) became my favorite technique, and all of these thanks to my little friend. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce him: Fonics BF-10!
This camera is so rare and obscure, I even don’t know where to begin… I had a hard time to google any information on it, so here’s some of mine. I bought it on the (no longer existing) outdoor Market Europa on 10th-Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw for the today’s rough equivalent of 50 EUR (my calculations may be wrong, but the important thing is it was a lot of money — from my perspective, of course; please don’t forget I was a teenager back then). It is a cheap, plastic, probably Chinese, automatic analogue camera, with a wide (29mm) fixed lens, built-in flash and some kind of light metering capabilities (takes two AA batteries). In the terms of optical performance it’s an utter crap; the lens aperture is like f/zillion, but even this doesn’t help it to produce clear image — the pictures are blurry no matter what. You can admire this exceptional “excellence” here:
(You might have noticed a huge chromatic aberration throughout the pictures, but let me be honest here — it’s not the lens fault, but rather a scanner’s — its optical quality was, uhm, comparable to this of the lens… 😉 )
If I recall correctly, the built-in flash eventually failed, but until this happened I had taken literally hundreds of pictures using this camera. At this time there was no World Wide Web1, no Facebook, no Twitter, no smartphones, nothing of that crap, and yet — surprise, surprise! — I didn’t have any problems sharing the pictures with my friends, no privacy concerns (with the exception of photo lab employees) and the only person, who’s decision was crucial regarding making my pictures public or not was me. If you ask me — these were good old times.
The Good Old Times became even better a few years later, when my brother-in-law presented me with a unique gift — his own Zenit XP camera. Holy cow! It was a bang on.
Unfortunately, the camera pictured above is not the one I was given, nevertheless it was a huge leap forward (albeit the aperture was still somewhat a bit scary term). Nothing was automatic anymore — but at least I started to realize it apparently is possible to take a picture which is not blurry (at least if I put some effort into it). The spray and pray was definitely superseded by it’s younger brother: I have no idea what I’m doing, but that’s where it all began — I started to distinguish the difference between “a photograph” and just “a picture”.
Sure, we can argue — the line between these sometimes is very thin, but I believe you get the general idea. But it was like magic: I realized that photography is not only about freezing a random scene at some given time on a still picture, but a way more important thing is to know how to do it, and — the most — what is on the scene and why. I felt a bit like Columbus. And suddenly I made one of the saddest mistakes in my life: I lent my Zenit to someone and… I forgot to whom. The hell, if by any chance you are reading this — could I get it back, pretty please?…
It took me more than 10 years to put my hands on the analogue camera again. In the meantime my friends let me use their equipement (Janek, Adrian — thank you!) and finally I bought my own DSLR, which I was dreaming of from the moment when I learned the digital SLRs exist. A lot has changed since then; sharing pictures with friends became almost a strictly digital domain, virtually anyone can become a photographer nowadays (iPad seems like the right tool, eh?). And so on, and so forth.
The digital photography overcame a lot of limitations of the traditional one (and introduced some new…) and — let me put this one straight — the photography as a process became a lot less challenging task than it used to be. This was a moment when I realized the number of megapixels doesn’t matter that much and a 3D Color Matrix Metering II in capable hands (mine still are not) is just a buzzword. I understood what is it all about.
Sometimes overwhelming. The other time — subtle ones… Doesn’t matter.
Emotions. It’s all about them.
1 OK, OK. Technically the WWW have existed since 1993, but even in the 1998 I barely knew anyone in my town who had an Internet connection of any kind.
(All photographs were taken by me; you can find them here.)