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Paris tableside grit and grain… old Agfa Precisa cross-processed

Having a cupboard full of old cameras and a freezer stocked with a range of old films has its plus points – the sheer number of combinations between camera and film, and the happy accidents that come from a certain camera using a certain film. Every weekend or photographic daytrip can yield a different result.

A few months ago, I spent the day in Paris with some of my workmates, mostly to catch the Pompidou Centre’s retrospective on Magnum founder Henri Cartier-Bresson. It’s ridiculous to think that this is the first time I’ve been to Paris since 2003.

Take a camera everywhere, is the sagest piece of photographic advice you’ll ever hear. This day, I took a clunky old favourite that I hadn’t used for at least a year, a Zenit E that I originally bought over a decade ago at a market in Greenwich for the princely sum of £4. The Zenit E’s probably the most-produced SLR in the history of photography, built in the many, many millions in the USSR and spawning a long line of sturdy budget SLRs that lasted until well after the fall of Communism.

A glass of what you fancy
A glass of what you fancy

An afternoon wandering around Paris after the exhibition gave me enough time to shoot a couple of rolls of film. Overcast lunchtime skies meant black and white; a roll of Fomapan 400 to bring out grit and grain in the grey stone streets, and a roll of Agfa Precisa CT100 for when the sun finally reappeared, cross-processed to give that characteristic retro look.

The Precisa isn’t the Fuji film currently being sold under this old name – it’s the original, the Agfa consumer-grade slide film that created such eye-popping blues and reds and deep blacks when given the cross-processing treatment.

Most of the time, I get these films scanned when they’re developed, at an excellent central london lab called West End Cameras; the mini-lab dev scanners seems to do a much better job bringing out the grain and saturated colours than I can do at home, even with an excellent Nikon Coolscan V scanner and Vuescan software. But this time, the film was expired enough that the lab’s scanner was having a difficult job finding the frames on auto setting, and getting it done manually was going to cost me an extra £10. Playing around a little in Vuescan allowed me to tweak them pretty easily, bringing out grain and crackling colours, all adding to that Parisian café vibe.

The deep, beautiful blues of xpro Precisa
Xpro Precisa can give a wonderfully retro look
My friend Rebecca, and iPhone, in gloomy paris light
A Pompidou escalator portrait
Tastefully distressed Paris graffiti
Yellow grain colouring makes this look like an old print discoloured with age
Tres French…

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Stephen Dowling
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Jarrod C
9 years ago

The last picture reminds me of something off of a Steely Dan album….

9 years ago
Reply to  Jarrod C

Ha – thanks very much Jarrod…

9 years ago

Hi Stephen I love the compositions and the cross-processed colour pictures. Keep it up you have an eye for interest street photography. Thanks Andy

9 years ago
Reply to  andybeel

Cheers Andy – it’s something I think i need to put a fair few more hours into. But it’s a good challenge.

9 years ago

Lovely pics and a nice review of the camera over on I Still Shoot Film. Thanks for sharing.

9 years ago
Reply to  James

Thanks very much, James.

8 years ago

Beautiful photos – love the composition and those colours…!