A few weeks ago I took part in a photo expedition in Old Town
Alexandria with a close friend of mine. We both have previous
photography experience from college classes, and I take
photos almost daily since I carry a pretty good camera with
me on my iPhone, but this photo expedition was special. We
were shooting in black and white on medium format film, using
cameras from the early 1900s.
My friend Jen Athanas met Alan Whiting of Five Colors Science
and Technology in Alexandria during a small business function
put on by the city of Alexandria. He proposed a day out using
Alan offers a special kind of photography service. He will
evaluate your antique camera, help find film and batteries,
etc. Afterward, he will take you on a picture-taking
expedition and then have the film developed and contact
sheets printed. Yes, there are still companies locally that
do that. It surprised me too.
Jen shot with her great-grandfather's Kodak Vest Pocket
camera, circa 1912-26, and I shot with two cameras I had
bought - a Brownie Hawkeye Flash, circa 1949; and a
Ciro-flex, circa 1948 - because they were vintage and looked
cool on a shelf in my art studio. Neither of us honestly ever
thought we would take a photo with any of these cameras.
The experience was exhilarating and reminded me why I got
interested in photography in the first place.
Shooting film (with 8-12 photos per roll) makes you slow down
and examine your surroundings and take your time composing
the "perfect shot." Shooting in black and white also
challenges you to think more in terms of tone and contrast
rather than composition - though that comes into play as
All three cameras we used have a viewfinder that you look
down into and the mirror inside reverses the image. That is a
bit challenging to get used to, and the cameras also have
limitations on shutter speed and aperture and even focusing
Afterward, Jen and I met with Alan to pick up our negatives
and contact sheets and discuss our overall experience.
We both were pleasantly surprised to find that yes, the
cameras did work. My Brownie seems to have a filmy haze over
one of the lenses, but it actually added something
interesting to the print that you likely couldn't achieve
with a digital camera today.
The anticipation of waiting more than a week to have film
developed, and having no idea if anything we shot and
composed so carefully turned out, was a surprisingly nice
break from the "instant satisfaction" world of digital
Most of us rush from one thing to the next, rarely taking
time to slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life.
Taking these old film cameras out on photo shoots is going to
become my "slow down" hobby. Go discover your own.
Rausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.