Friday, 12 February 2010

Digitised Gratifications

Ansel Adams: Aspens, Northern New Mexico

One of the very first items I bought when I finally settled down in UK all those years ago as a student was a Canon EOS 1000 SLR camera which came with a 35-80mm zoom lens, camera bag and tripod.

It was a vanity, spur of the moment, but ultimately disappointing, purchase.

I later found out that the zoom lens' slow speed (4 – 5.6) - coupled with the camera’s own “basic setup” – was quite restrictive even for the amateur photographer that was its owner.

In the end, I traded it at a loss for a Minolta X-700 with a 50mm lens which proved a much better companion.

The X-700 was pretty basic - all it had were Program, Aperture Priority and Manual – but the lens was fast at 1.4 so I could get away with low light / night shots without relying too much on the flash.

And, yep, it uses the film negative and you crank it manually one frame at a time.

Not sure if it had one of those attachable motorized film rewinders but, as I was a student on a tight budget, film cranking is no big a deal.

Recently, my better half saw me looking at the gorgeous Olympus EP-1 PEN and was blunt in her comments: “You hardly ever use the camera (a Nikon Coolpix) we have currently.”

She’s half right, in fact. If I do ever buy a DSLR, it’ll probably be another vanity buy driven more by the fascination of numbers and specs (pixels, apertures, shutter speeds etc) than in the photography itself.

Half right because, deep inside, I still long for those days when I go on (often solo) sunset walks in search of picturesque scenes to snap.

(I hardly get any good shots anyway, but hey, enjoying the whole process counts!)

Unfortunately, such is a luxury once you start on the mad dash of life’s highway and unless you happened to have yours on a silver platter, there is no way you can go on these trips of indulgence.

If ever something wonderfully similar were to occur to me (the silver platter thingy, I mean), I will be setting aside the dates June 21 and 22 for a trip to New York’s Sotheby’s for Polaroid’s auction of its collection.

Unfortunately, the rise of digital photography has not been kind to these companies of old churning out negatives, Polaroid included.

It’s caught in a second bankruptcy proceedings and this time around, a court in Minnesota has ordered Polaroid to sell a portion of its collection to pay off creditors.

The collection – some1,200 of them – are expected to fetch a maximum of US$11.5million; peanuts in facts so much so that NYT quoted one of the photographer whose works is included in the collection as saying: “To sell it is criminal.

I supposed the sentiment would be different had the auction been more of the normal process rather than a forced one, but this is usually applied more to paintings.

Polaroid is however more instantaneous in its gratification.

Something like the digital cameras of today, except that with Polaroid, you hold the image in your hands.

Instant and without makeovers.

So sinfully gratifying, that.

(PS: The two images from New York Times (online, Feb 10, 2010) are examples of the work which could be auctioned.)

David Hockney: Imogen & Hermione

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