Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Brownie Points

Apart from being my homage to Kim Sayer's beautiful book Dinky Toys, this blog is also an 'In Memoriam' for the fact that Kodak no longer make film cameras. Many of us will have made our first awkward attempts at taking photographs with a Box Brownie, or the later Instamatics, eagerly awaiting our glossy black and white or coloured rectangles to be ready at the chemists. It was some time ago that we stopped sending our slide films in yellow envelopes to Hemel Hempstead, when slide processing moved out to the Land of the Cuckoo Clock. Oh the joys of slow old Kodachrome, so magnificently celebrated by Paul Simon, and the blue-toned Ektachrome that was the first film I looped into my 1970 Yashica. All those yellow boxes in attics, stuffed full of little cardboard or plastic mounts. My father swore by Kodachrome, taking off his thick-rimmed Philip Larkin spectacles to peer myopically through viewfinders. ("Always put something red in the picture boy".) And literally swearing when he had to struggle with an Aldis projector and screen in order to show my Aunt Rosalie's slides (usually of her Cyclemaster propped up against banana trees in the Nigerian bush) to open-mouthed audiences in remote Leicestershire chapels. Photographs taken on film, I suppose, will never completely disappear, but will one day recede to become the fine art it was at its inception. Goodbye Box Brownie, goodbye opening the back up too soon and finding you've fogged all the film.

10 comments:

Tommy 3 jags said...

Of course the modern day Brownie 127 is the Lomo.

Justin Savage said...

Peter, what an enchanting photograph.

I still use real film in my Pentax of course. The joy of photographs comes from more than the image alone; anticipation plays a key part too. Phrases like 'must use up the film before I pop it into SnappySnaps' and '100th at f8' are disappearing fast (I, of course, use these phrases all the time, even when buying cinema tickets or filling the car with petrol).

As well as anticipation there is also the simple, tactile, pleasure of handling the prints themselves. All shiny and new and a little bit tacky, fresh from the machine, I still get a big thrill from leafing through them to see which have worked and which have not; and the surprising ones you feel like throwing away but can't quite bring yourself to, only to find, years later, they contain far more contemporary interest than you'd thought at the time.

Peter Ashley said...

Very true, Tommy and Justin. As I've always said, bugger (or something like that) the camera, it's what you see that's important.

Toby Savage said...

P.O. 14, Hemel Hempstead, Herts. An address ingrained in my memory forever. You can, of course, still get proper photographic prints from digital images. Just the same and far cheaper than they ever used to be. No. Really! JUST THE SAME.

simon_clarke said...

When you say "The Land of the Cuckoo Clock" I assume you mean Austria - as any fule kno, the claim that Switzerland originated this particular piece of kitsch in an egregious error promulgated by Orson Welles in the Third Man...

Boring Being said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Ashley said...

Dear Boring Being: You're quite right. I wrote the original blog when a)I hadn't done enough research and b) whilst tired and emotional. I have now edited the piece, mainly because I suddenly got the fear that Kodak would prop me up in court. But long live Fuji Provia 100!

Peter Ashley said...

Oh. He's gone. Who was that I wonder.

thud said...

No nostalgia for me...how many moments have been lost for want of film etc..digital cameras may make one lazy but they make capturing even the mundane enmasse possible.

Peter Ashley said...

Very true Thud. I fought the digital revolution for a long time, still paying through my not inconsiderably-large nose for film and processing. Only to become a total hypocrite and embrace the new technology with open arms. No more waiting two hours for my film, no more being told in fact it will be another two hours 'cos the 'machine's gone down'. Miss the girls behind the counter though, particularly one.