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Shelf of vintage cameras (Pic: Johan Sebastian Vargas/Pexels)
(Pic: Johan Sebastian Vargas/Pexels)

By Lucy Lumen

Bill retires to the bedroom for the evening, he closes the curtains, brushes his teeth, pulls back the covers and slides into bed. Bill practises an almost obsessive hourly routine of scrolling Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Gumtree in his mad search for cameras. But not just any old cameras, film cameras. The ones most see as a relic, an antiquated piece of machinery outdated by digital advancements. One surely of little use. Where the hell do you buy film, anyway?

Bill, on the other hand, is soothing his soul with the sound of shutter slaps and scouring the internet far and wide to acquire that next legendary camera to add to his ever expanding collection. Bill has no time for any other hobby, and barely gets to use these beauties; chronic, incurable desire fuels an overwhelming intent to hunt down, bid, haggle and own yet another analogue camera.

After some hardcore scrolling, Bill plugs his phone in to charge and turns in for some much needed shut eye. The day’s consumption of film photography-related content had Bill dreaming of deceased estates with tables and tables of cameras left behind by a once-avid shooter. Cameras with their original cases and manuals, preserved just like the day they were purchased. Lenses by the dozen fill Bill’s unconscious mind. He dreams of once again visiting that Mecca of all things film camera, Japan.

The sun rises and so does Bill, ready for his morning coffee accompanied by his ritualistic checking of Marketplace and Ebay. He then checks out his favourite channels on YouTube. He decided one video would be better watched in his office amongst his precious collection and in his comfy chair. Trundling over to his precious camera cave, Bill opens the door and gasps. His mug of hot coffee falls to the floor scorching his feet and shattering into shards around him. Grabbing his chest, Bill drops to his knees, looking up at his humidity-controlled cabinets.

Empty. All empty.

He couldn’t bear to witness this harrowing sight. Bill buries his head in his hands and sobs like the chief mourner at a funeral. He cannot comprehend such a loss, let alone understand how someone could have pulled off the theft! Unable to process this disastrous event, Bill paces the house, pinching himself, convinced it’s not real. He closes the door and opens it again, thinking the cameras would magically return. He starts spiralling out of control pacing from one room to another listing off in his head all the things now missing. “My FM3A and M6, my father’s Spotmatic with the eight-element 50mm, all the Nikon prime lenses, my collection of OM system bodies!” As Bill continues to rattle off all that’s been stolen from him, he starts to lose control. Banging the walls, screaming: “My Mamiyas, all my Mamiyas!”

“The Hasselblad 500C, gone! Taken from me while I sleep, how could this be?”

Exhausted, Bill sits in the car in the garage. He considers ending it all, or driving away and never returning. Unable to see life continue without his passion and legacy, Bill’s eyes suddenly lit up and his eyebrows raise. “The glove box!” he thinks. Bill always kept a camera in the car in case he ever saw the shot of a lifetime and needed something quick to snap it with. Unsurprisingly, Bill owned doubles, triples and even quadruples of certain cameras.

Nikon FM3A (Pic: Daniel Go/Flickr)
Not the Nikon FM3A! (Pic: Daniel Go/Flickr)

Reaching over to the passenger’s side, he pulls the lever to open the glove box and there it is. All on it’s lonesome, the only survivor of the greatest camera theft of all time, the Canonet QL17. Definitely no M6 but a sharp fixed lens and solid build all the same. Bill instantly feels at ease laying eyes on a beautiful film camera.

Bill sees this camera in a whole new light. Not just another notch on his belt or camera on his shelf, he looks at it with excitement and wonder. His face lights up. He remembers this feeling but he had to dig for its origin. He cast his mind back to his first camera in university, filled with awe and intrigue at what this little box could do. That was it. That was the feeling. That surge of inspiration and desire to not only hold and admire the camera but to take it out in the wild and shoot with it! Let its moving parts work, let the spool wind the film from left to right, let the mechanical advance lever bring the next blank frame into the light. Turn a split-second into something that lasts forever.

Who would have thought being robbed of everything and hitting camera rock bottom would save Bill and restore his love for the camera’s intended purpose

A sense of relief washes over Bill as he sat in the driver’s seat, Canonet in hand with a smile ear to ear. It is an epiphany. All this time Bill had been obsessively collecting these cameras thinking that’s where the true happiness would be, but there was always another one he needed, another one he yearned for and this consumption had turned Bill into a monster! Who would have thought being robbed of everything and hitting camera rock bottom would save Bill and restore his love for the camera’s intended purpose: “TO SHOOT, GOD DAMN IT!”

The relief is overwhelming. Bill knows what he has to do, he has to delete the Facebook Marketplace app, and the eBay app, and the Gumtree app. He is cured.  Bill loads his one and only camera up with some film and skips off into golden hour to shoot his first roll in more than a year!

The sound of an alarm rings through Bill’s ear, disturbing his photo walk. It rings louder and louder and the vision of golden hour and compositions become further and further away. His eyes burst open, he inhales a huge breath and shoots up from bed. Confused and disoriented, he looks around trying to figure out what has happened. Bill remembers his dream, gasps and runs to the office to check the cabinets. He flings the doors open and there they are, humidity controlled, safe and sound. Sitting pretty and perfect just where he had left them. He takes a huge sigh of relief and turns toward the kitchen to make his morning coffee. It brews and bubbles away and smells delicious. He tries to fully remember this strange dream he had just had, screwing his brow and trying to make it a linear affair.

The coffee is poured and Bill sits in his comfy chair next to his cabinets full of cameras. He sips and scrolls through the news, then some Instagram, then the weather (rain again today). Then a notification pops up on eBay “Nikon F is still available. Are you interested?” Bill feels a funny sense of guilt clicking on this notification but can’t figure out why. He shakes his head. On Marketplace there’s a new listing, a photo of 12 cameras all lined up, titled: “Vintage cameras for sale”. Bill messages instantly

“What’s your address? I could pop over now.”

For more of my thoughts on analogue photography, check out my YouTube channel.

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Jeisea
Jeisea
4 months ago

from beginning to end a great read and so well describes that obsessive search for the next must have, rare find awesomeness.

Roger B.
Roger B.
4 months ago

Hilarious, well-written, and all too believable! From one GASser to another: Thank you!

James Mahon
James Mahon
4 months ago

Excellent.