For many years I’ve been trying to track down my father’s old Voigtlander Vitoret and had almost given up on finding it, presuming it lost forever in the sands of time. But in October last year, during a brief visit to my parents, we struck gold when Dad in one of his more lucid moments disappeared upstairs and returned triumphantly with an old shoebox filled with old cameras, of which the Voigtlander was by far the most interesting one.
As a child I remember my father recording every family holiday on slides using the camera. This involved much fiddling with a light meter (one that remains lost) and tentative turning of dials, which used to exasperate my mother, brother and me, as we all didn’t want to stand still that long for the obligatory happy family shot and just wanted him to get on with it. I feel a bit more sympathetic for what he had to do with that camera having recently handled it and am amazed he actually got reasonable photos out of it. Probably better ones than he is managing now with a digital camera!
Back in the days of my first steps into photography, my father let me use an old Agfa Clack, which was a boxy and bulky thing to carry around; the Voigtlander being so much sleeker in comparison. I’m sure the memory of the Voigtlander played a signicant part in my decision to buy the Fuji X100, which has that old look and feel, but is packed full of new technology.
After taking the Voigtlander home, I gave it a good clean, found a PDF scan of the manual on the Internet (not that there is much to figure out, it really is a very simple camera) and put some black and white film into it. I have so far been on one outing with it and am planning another one this weekend with the aim of filling up the film with images, so I can get it developed. Handling an old fashioned camera like this, makes you aware of how much we have grown used to new technology and how much we rely on it. Having no light meter I have to rely on my manual settings experience for deciding on which settings to use, with fairly limited options available, particularly in terms of shutter speed. And of course, no way of seeing how the photos have turned out until I get it developed. It is going to be a real surprise when the film comes back and I’m not sure whether it will be a good one, but certainly an interesting one!
One thing is certain, feeling the old camera in my hands and shooting with it, makes me really appreciate new technology. I will not deny my nostalgia for my father’s old camera, and it will probably find a place of pride on a bookshelf, but I prefer my new cameras and all they offer to me.
I’m sure there must be others in the CPS who occasionally shoot with film or an old camera. I would love to hear more about your experiences.