Snapshots: Celebrations, Records and Ideas

Snapshots: Celebrations, Records and Ideas, is an album of happiness and humour and things I like

Rae at Mandalay Beach, with her Zero 5x4" camera on our first wedding anniversary

Rae at Mandalay Beach, with her Zero 5×4″ camera on our first wedding anniversary

jbaphoto110214A016.mod.smallMy recent seventieth birthday was a kind of way marker for me which showed me it is time to cease my dark environmental work. Especially my work devoted to describing the destruction and defense of our forest. Perhaps the contemplative images of the coast and the engaged Naked Portraits of women will continue for a while, but I think these too will tail off during the next one or two years


Kat over-posing with SinarI have always made snapshots, but he idea for a dedicated portfolio of┬áLeicasnaps (Leica snapshots) came from the results of a day making easy prints from 35mm snaps as a prelude to making of real prints, large prints of real images, from real 10×8 and 5×4 inch negatives. All I thought I was doing at the time was making a few prints for fun, but looking at the prints has raised questions and an idea

jbaphoto130103A12.mod.smallI now see the Leicasnaps is a bigger and more important body of work than I first thought. I had seen these Leicasnaps being for personal consumption by family and friends. When I started to review the negatives and made an initial list for printing the narrative streams in the work were already evident. However, the first day’s negatives were selected on a totally random “how will this look” approach with no thought to chronology, subject area or logic. The print list is already big, several pages in my darkroom work book jbaphoto131107A020.mod.smallThe starting point for this 35mm snapshot portfolio was the arrival of Rae Starr in September 2008. The images are a personal record and the body of the work centres around celebration of Rae, but also the garden, records of making the series of Naked Portraits with big cameras and lots of things that have taken my interest or have good light or refer to ideas for future “real pictures”, or things that get snapped. So the title Snapshots: Celebrations, Records and Ideas . . . jbaphoto131107B034.mod.smallThe size of the prints took a little consideration, image sizes were first 6 x 9 inches, too small, then 10 x 15″, too big and finally settling on 7.3 x 11 inches on 11×14 Fomabrom paper

jbaphoto140108A00.mod.smallThe next printing will be in an ordered way, with images chosen from each year from 2008 and selected with more mindfulness

jbaphoto140922A003.mod.smallBefore going into the darkroom for the next batch of images the question Rae and I are considering is what to do with the prints. To keep them for family and friends, or to publicly show them? Should they be in bound portfolios? Should they be ordered chronologically, or by subject or by other means of classification? Currently I want a wall of them in a grid, but beyond that in random disorder. Random disorder lets the viewer imagine their own narrative sequences of the pictures

Page from notebook, first thoughts on showing prints

Page from notebook, first thoughts on showing prints

These snapshots are decidedly not “street photography. I only very rarely steal images of people without the knowledge, and I feel to do so is theft. My exceptions to this are timber industry workers, too stupid to know what a camera is, timber industry bosses and their politicians and police. These deserve all the abuse they get

Note on Cameras:

As well as the screw mount Leica negs, there are a few images from Leica M2, Nikon F, Voigtlander Vitessa and DeJUR D3 in the mix. M series Leicas, and Ninon Fs are too big to carry, the Voigtlander Vitessa and DeJur D3 too odd and the Rollei 35B is too small, but very nice. I have come to embrace the idiosyncrasies of the LTM Leicas and the re-engagement with the snapshot has partly come from my rediscovery of these cameras and their ease of use, that is ease of use to me, but . . .


Leica Snapshot Time

In concert with my new series of 10×8″ Portraits I am using a Leica IIIc, and soon a second Leica IIIf, for a series of snapshots of the process of making the big pix with the big camera

Leica IIIc

Leica IIIc with 35mm Canon lens. This lens is suitably bad for the work I want from it

The choice of screw mount Leica for this work is odd at the very best. The first commercial Leica design had some odd quirks that could and should have been changed with the very next model. These are separate view and range finder eyepieces, tiny view finder, the dreadful up-the-arse film loading with the need to re-cut the leader to 4″ to enable it to be loaded, separate shutter speed dials for slow and fast speed ranges, cloth shutter curtains that love to be burnt by the Sun . . . These were all corrected in the Zeiss Ikon Contax which was a vast improvement on the Leica and most of these oddities were eventually changed in the M3, apart from the cloth shutter curtain

However, I really like the old screw Leicas due to the old look to the negs, helped by using a Canon 35mm f2.8 as the standard lens. I have owned and borrowed several M series Leicas, but these are too big and I vastly prefer using the Nikon F to the M series Leica for multi lens 35mm work. For this kit I will stick to 35 and sometimes 50mm only

On the positive side the camera is small, lighter than many currently popular cameras, will carry a great range of old lenses, many of them so bad they are really interesting to use. I do not ask “quality” quality from 35mm. For “quality” I use 10×8″ and 5×4″. To me 35mm is a snapshot format and I celebrate the immediacy and engagement of a 35mm snapshot. It will be sensibly argued that a modern point and shoot digital camera will be better than an old Leica, but in reality the shutter lag annoys me and users of these cameras view a dis-engaged world via a screen, like viewing their world on television. I like the slip in bright line viewfinders and with the 5cm Leitz view finder, with its 1:1 image ratio, it is easy to keep both eyes open with a bright frame showing the field of view hanging in space. However, in practice I almost only use 35mm focal length on Leicaand occasionally 5cm, so I am generally limited to the 35mm finder which requires one eye to be closed, it is up the the worker to chose which, which can be fun in terms of image framing. (For other focal lengths I have the residue of my commercial Nikon kit with lenses from 20mm to 105mm. I have no intention of turning the Leica into a multiple lens camera outfit

There is another helpful thing to know with early Leica and some other lenses, which is that the focusing lock button has four useful positions. At the locked position it is focused at infinity, at the bottom the lens is focused at 12 feet, at the mirror position to infinity gives 6′ and sitting horizontally it is focused at 4.5′. Knowing this can help remove the need to use the rangefinder and speed things up. Also learning the depth of field at working distances and apertures will help


Rae on Parry Beach, Denmark just before Christmas 2013

Bronwyn in cafe in Denmark just before Christmas 2013

Bronwyn in cafe in Denmark just before Christmas 2013


Rae at Waychinicup, November 2013. This image on 50mm Summitar, 1946, the rest are 35mm Canon

After the up-the-arse film loading the next worst thing is the plethora of NEXists who buy second hand film camera lenses from every available manufacturer, mount them on their cameras via apaptor rings and think they are clever