In search of time lost: a tribute to film, Holga, 120 and real photography

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I think I have a fetish for vintage gadgets. The other day, as I was passing "Oxfam" in Dundrum on the way to the bank, I couldn't believe when I saw it on the window display. On the very bottom shelf, besides jewellery. Looking so classy and almost new. All azure, with black keyboard. Not quite as vintage as the one in "Naked Lunch", but still - a typewriter. You don't come across them often nowadays. I needed one as a prop for a photoshoot. Well, the photoshoot became an excuse later on, at first I was just admiring the fact of it in the window and for only 20 Euro, even though I'm trying not to surround myself with too many things. And it was before Tom Hanks confessed his passion for them to Jonathan Ross.

Every time I was walking to the bank I was admiring the view of it on that Oxfam window. And then it was gone. That's when I realised I could use it as a prop, but farewell... it was no more. I went to a few other charity shops afterwards feeling like an dinosaur or an alien. Do you ever get typewriters? I was searching for time lost or remembering time lost. Like the other time, when I was doing a social documentary project for NCAD Course and photographing closed cinemas of Dublin. I think, I've calculated about 9, there are probably more.



Carlton on O'Connell Street. Rephotographed black and white handprint.



Stella in Rathmines. Rephotographed black and white handprint



Classic on Harold's Cross. Rephotographed black and white handprint

Last week I embarked on another mission, looking for 120 color slide film for my new Holga. The fact that I bought it for 35 Euro on ebay (shipping included), while the last time I saw them in "Urban Outfitters" they cost about 90 Euro is another story. The fact that apart from this funky shop nobody else seems to be selling them in Dublin, is another, yet even sadder story. Anyway. As some of you might know, a few years ago Agfa discontinued production of all their 120 films, thus the only way some manage to make shots like these is if they were stockpiling them in the attic previously. Therefore if you are looking for colour slide in Dublin, you are left with either Fuji or Kodak. After going to John Gunn, Camera Exchange and a few more decent camera shops in Dublin which seem to be resisting the evolution of photography into point-and-shoot-everybody-is-a-photographer-can-I-see-the-picture digitalisation, I had to sadly face the fact that getting such hazy bluish colours might not be possible while I am in Dublin. In John Gunn (by far the best film photography shop in Dublin with the most-knowledgeable staff) I was told Kodak slides are a bit OTT, while when I popped into a camera shop on Grafton street stupidly hoping that perhaps they might have a few slides secretly concealed on some God-forgotten shelf, I couldn't see anything film there - just memory sticks, basic point and shoot digital cameras and batteries. The fridge with slides was hidden in the staff room. Well, good things mostly are not sold on the high streets, aren't they? Film cameras are not in fashion anymore any way. Or are they?

You don't have to look too far. Go to flickr and enter 'film' or 'plastic camera' or go to my recent discovery Film is not dead, it just smells funny, or the largest pinhole gallery or Lomography... You get the idea. Many of the best film photography works are not even scanable, like these ones by my first (and best so far) photography teacher Jurgita Remeikyte. Some of photography works are not even recordable, like this one on BBC's Genius of Photography - watch minutes 4-6.

Of course, digital photography is cheaper, more accessible, easier and more 'sharable'. You just have to upload it to flickr and voila! Everybody is a photographer. You manipulate the pictures till they become sickly plastic and you hear 'wow'.

12 years ago Julian Stallabrass in his remarkable book "Gargantua. Manufactured Mass Culture" said that around 60 billion photographs are taken every year and with the arrival of domestic computer manipulation 'every sunset will be perfect'. There was much truth in his words, wasn't there? And that was before digital cameras cost a few hundred euros and almost all mobile phones had one integrated. Digital made photography a kind of a quickie. Point. Shoot. Upload. Print. In fact how many photographs are not even uploaded, just looked at on the back screen of our better or worse digital cameras.

At present, between three and five million photographs are uploaded to flickr.com every day. And then there is stock photography, blogs, etc... Recent cover story in "Monocle" convinced me that I'm not some nostalgic freak. Did you know that in Japan - the pioneer of digital photography - mainstream media oftentimes still uses film? And that one of the best photographers ever and one of my favourite ones - Hiroshi Sugimoto - it is being said, stockpiles rolls of film in a freezer. After some research and doubt I discovered that it is possible.

Of course, film per se doesn't attribute a photograph as a work of art. Just like digital does not make it less. It's just sad to see film disappearing so quickly. The first digital cameras for mass consumer were introduced less than 15 years ago and now almost everybody has one. We all have become photographers. When I took a picture of my 6-year-old nephew with my N65, he instantly said 'let me see the picture'. Now he knows his auntie is a bit of a freak, fiddling with plastic cameras and searching for what is no more in Dublin camera shops. Well, I got a slide film finally. Fujifilm Astia, Velvia and Provia are still quite widely available. Yet when cross-processed they can be a bit too indigo or too ruby. At least so far. Yet this is what I love about film, slide and cross-processing. No matter, what is the level of your control, it always comes a bit as a surprise. Although I still have digital (for quickies....) it is this bit of organic magic that makes me stick to film. And pay tributes to time lost. In the meantime - say cheese.



My first slide roll of Holga. Raheny. Dublin

All photos©Lina Zigelyte

 
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