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.
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.