About

 

The photographs here are proudly amateur, taken between 2005 – when I switched from film to digital media – and a few weeks ago. The earliest are those of New England & New York.

 

My Dad let me take the occasional family shot when I was a child. Then at the age of twelve, my grandmother’s neighbour, offloading his possessions prior to emigrating, gave me a Halina 35x. It was a proper, metal camera, with variable shutter speeds and aperture, a lens to focus, and came with a separate lightmeter and a rangefinder attached to the hotshoe. I started to learn the technical aspects of taking pictures: it’s not just what, and when, but also a conveyor belt of compromises between film, light, motion and depth.

 

At 18 I discovered the wonder of developing film and printing in a university darkroom, and then really learned how to do it in a six month stint as a photographic assistant at Decca Navigation. I went on to set up various makeshift darkrooms in lofts, bathrooms, and spare rooms, gradually accumulating  better equipment. Eventually life got too busy, and I could no longer find the hours needed for a decent developing and printing session. Luckily for me, the pixel arrived.  The speed and convenience of digital photography won the battle against the emergent magic and silk touch of the print. Unable to even give it away, I took my darkroom kit down the dump. It was a sad moment, watching my brilliantly functional Beard printing easel slide down the ramp, into the crap below. At least I slipped the Schneider Optic enlarger lens into my pocket.  Maybe one day, in retirement, we leave the town and buy a farm, with a brick shed, and plumbing, and I can make the reverse journey, swopping noise for grain.

 

The cameras have all been a joy: to covet, own, hold, and use. Most bust. My student camera, a Zorki 4K, which got me hooked on rangefinders before it jammed. An old Rolleiflex bought from my colleague at Decca for £10. A Mamiya C3, sold to a Greek architect when I ran out of cash on holiday, and later a Mamiya C330. A Pentax LX, paid from coins I popped into a sweet jar each day for every packet of cigarettes I had not smoked since giving up. A Pentax K1000, and a Pentax ME Super – I love Pentax. A Mamiya 6 – probably the best.  A Leica M7 – my dream camera, bought just before I gave up film, staring at me, wanting to be used; a Leica Digilux 2 – my first and only new camera, all the rest have been secondhand; a Leica M8; a Leica M9 – a wining bid on Ebay, owned by a Hungarian called Atilla, which he had bought from an Italian, who had had it prematurely aged as a prop for a film.

 

While I do go on the occasional pure photo foray, the majority of the pictures are taken when doing something else, snatched moments during a business trip, marching to work, or walking the dog (which has forced me to look very hard at trees). And of course there are holiday snaps.

 

A few decades of photography, but not there yet.

 

Peter Illsley