120 millimeters. The analog world’s quiet call to remind us that everything evolved is not necessarily better.
We dusted off an ancient Rolleicord medium format camera a few weeks ago. As best we can tell, its more than 50 years old. It pre-dates digital signal to say nothing of your iPhone camera.
It started life capturing farm equipment in the western United States. Traveling from the dusty orange fields of northern California, to the wheat farms of Oregon, and sweeping out to capture, in high contrast black and white, bumper crops lapping at the mountains of Idaho and Montana.
It’s travelled with me since I found it in my parent’s attic. It once captured the daily life of an eighth grader, as I begged my parents for film and developing costs. Then it sat quiet, waiting as it had before, for a chance to do its job once again.
It once taught me that it was alright to be a bit different, running out to shoot a frozen river instead of skating on it. Lugging a bag of equipment on family vacations instead of a gameboy. Patience, composition, an idea of how to find something worthy of the indelible.
When we picked it back up a few weeks ago, its lessons continued.
Still fragile, we pulled open the view finder to find a dim square of light making the bend from a half century of precision glass to fall on our eyes. We fumbled, perplexed as children with a toy beyond our cognition. We reckon ourselves photographers somedays, and there we were, whispering as we worked through the complexity of simple engineering. How do you focus? Are the settings correct?
Simple, old, and still yet more lessons to give us. Keep it simple so you can see it. Take a moment to take it in. Despite all that you try, and all that you plan, the unintended and unseen will always add more than you can imagine – and its better that way.
And so here it is. The best of our first roll, blotches, dust, and all. How much more there is to learn.