The historic story of the film camera through the human experience
The invention of the camera in 1816 was a milestone in human history, enabling a realistic reflection of our existence to be perpetuated on glass or paper. Almost 200 years later, the process of taking a photo is one of the most basic actions of our everyday life, more so with the fast evolution of digital equipment, enabling each and every one of us to use the simplest tools (cellphones) and receive great results in terms of quality and resolution, and even receive immediate publicity for our photos with web tools like Facebook and Instagram. But most of us can still remember a time when taking a photo was a process of loading film cartridges, snapping only a small number of frames and waiting for the negative strip of film to develop and print. The era of film cameras and chemical processes is almost extinct, but we can still find traces of bones and footprints. Even more so, we can still buy film, load it into the old analogical mechanisms and snap light through dusty lenses. The results may surprise and excite us. It has awakened an old love inside of me and sent me on a journey I which I named “My Photographic Time Tunnel”.
“Photographic Time Tunnel” is a documentary project that tells a multi-layered story of about 25 analog film cameras from different times in history. One layer of a story is about the technological development of the photographic camera, with each camera as a mile stone breakthrough in technology of its time. Another layer tells a personal human story of the people owning these cameras and using the old photos taken by these cameras as snap shot memories to build a narrative. The last layer is a new artistic approach re-inventing those old cameras as a modern tool of taking old/new photographs.
For me it all started when I rediscovered my father’s old Yashica Lynx camera. Id decided to load it with film and took photos of my 3 years old daughter. When I got the results from the lab I compared them with the photos my father took back in the early seventies. It was such a powerful experience that I immediately started to look around for more old cameras and the stories they tell. Reusing these cameras felt like going back in time, only to look again at the present. In the course of the last year or so, I managed to find some very touching cameras, holding great stories of human history. Each camera has three lines of stories I’m interested in:
- The story of the camera model, the company that manufactured it and its historic role in Camera technology evolution.
- The story of the person who owned the one specific camera and the photographic journey he made with it – with old photos to illustrate the tale.
- Renewing the camera mechanism and taking new photos, connecting the past and present together.
The first story I told, about the Japanese Yashica Lynx, was personal. My father bought his camera in the early seveties in order to take photos of his last days of military service. Unfortunately, the 1973 war (Yom Kippur) had begun, and he had to serve for one more year. During this year he took a lot of pictures with his new Yashica Lynx Rangefinder camera. Almost 40 years later I told his camera’s story and took photos of my daughter.
The second story was grand in proportions compared with our small family camera story. During a filming of a movie in a museum my keen eyes fell upon Avraham Soskin’s (one of Israel’s most known and important photographers) old Rolleiflex (Original Standard model dated to 1935). After receiving permissions from the museum and Soskin’s grandchild, I tried to work the camera, but found it was stuck. For some reason Soskin’s grandchild trusted in me and I was granted permission to take the camera outside of the museum’s protecting walls. With the old Rolleiflex by my side I ventured on a Tel-Aviv journey to the old camera mechanics who still operate in old and dusty workshops. Reviving the old relic and telling its amazing story was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, which I told in my blog, and in a short documentary. The story received enthusiastic responses which only encouraged me to go on with my Photographic Time Tunnel journey.
The third story was a about a German Voiglander Brillant camera that made a journey from Germany to Israel during the Second World War, and told the story of three generations of a Jewish family. I took the Brillant with me to my military reserve service and revived it in the desert. The forth camera was an amazing Leica I camera dated to 1925. The camera told the story of an Israeli photographer named Ezriel Kalman who used to work with the camera at his father’s studio back in Romania. Ezriel is still alive, and together we revived the camera and used it in Tel-aviv, the same way he used it at the village of Harlau almost 70 years ago.
My Photographic Time Tunnel journey is not over yet. There are still great cameras and amazing stories to tell, and now I want to take the story to its next level. The story of “Photographic Time Tunnel” would be a web platform introducing about 25 historic film cameras with their multi-layered stories. Each Camera model will be placed in time from the day the first photo camera was born, to the day it evolved into a digital device. It could be read as one long story of more than 100 years of evolution, or a specific story about a specific camera model and the human that operated it.
This is an international project, which will be researched around the globe for the best stories. Each camera model and the story it carries will have its own web platform, enabling people that own similar cameras to share their personal stories and photos.
Statement of objective
A personal story of a man with his camera. Many people still hold in their dark closets an analog film camera. It was their own camera before the digital era swept everything away, or maybe it belonged to someone in their family. This simple retro tool took photos who told a story. Digging out the camera and photos may hold a lot of surprises, and could be used to form a narrative of a bond between people and the photo-taking tool they chose as a companion.
A story of technological achievements. The technology behind the photo camera is an everlasting evolution process. It is very interesting to look back at the technological race that took place in the last century between inventors and manufacturers in order to make the best tool. First they worked to make it smaller and more comfortable to be carried around. Then they developed better celluloid and perfected the lenses. And in the race to make it more user-friendly they found ways to automate the mechanism to choose for the user the best aperture and exposing time with regard to the light available in the scene. By the end of the 20th century they made it completely automated and abandoned the celluloid in favor of the digital file. The inventors and the different brands that took part in this world-wide race deserve to be part of the Photographic Time Tunnel story.
A new art form. Today, in a world overwhelmed by photography equipment, the ultimate search of the photographer using his digital equipment is after the perfect image. Let it be high resolution, sharp as a knife and filled with realistic colors. The analog camera which is long forgotten, brings something different to the searching artist. The chemical process of the passing light through the camera lens, burnt upon a negative film strip, is no longer judged by terms of perfection, but by raw standards of the passing moment. Let it be blurry, a bit off balanced, over exposed and filled with scratches – the combination of the squeaky mechanical mechanism, the old tired lens and the chemical celluloid brings an old/new frame into the world. And it is exciting!
My Photographic Time Tunnel journey has these three themes walking hand in hand: The historic tale of the camera development and use. The part the camera took in forming the photographer’s personal story. And finally making them a valid tool for producing celluloid photos in the digital era. I would like people to remember their old cameras and maybe create a new urge to salvage them for another use.
New Media Aspects
“Photographic Time Tunnel” is documentary story told on a web platform, enabling the viewer to take is own non-linear voyage through time, chose his own interest and participate where we can by sharing his photos, stories and knowledge.
In the website’s main page the user will find a timeline dated from birth of the first camera. On the timeline the user will find approximately 25 icons, each representing a different camera model. Clicking on the chosen icon will open a new page, in which the user will find detailed information about the model and a short documentary telling a story related to this model. Each “model page” will allow users who own or owned the same camera model, to share their own stories and old photos. Since many of this camera models still exist in our world, the page will also include an additional gallery page in which the users can share recent photos taken with their old model.