Photographers have a pretty intense relationship with their cameras. I remember reading that it took Dianne Arbus over a year to get used to her Rolleiflex when she changed cameras (the Met show in 2005). I am taken aback when I inventory the cameras I have used over the years: several Nikon FM’s, Leica M6, Mamiya 7, Horseman, and Hasselblad, and many digital cameras from Nikon, Olympus, and Panasonic. Of all of these, I loved – still love – the Leica – the solid, chunky feel, the lovely balance in the hand, the satisfying deep click of the shutter release, the gliding movement of the film advance lever with its partial cocking motion, the distinctive typeface (CorpoS – custom, of course) and the superb images too. Perhaps I bought the Leica hype, which helped me to deal with minor annoyances like the fussy film loading. Yet this love affair was brief, as I had already begun to slide over to the evil side – to digital – I did not have the patience to deal with the laborious scanning of negatives. So much for true love.
The British photographer Stephen Gill has made a series of photographs of a flea market in Hackney Wick by using an inexpensive camera that he bought at the very same flea market. Zoe Leonard made her large documentary project of shop fronts in the Lower East Side titled “Analogue” using a vintage film camera – the Rolleiflex too, I think. Yet, the German artist Susanne Kriemann who is based in Rotterdam and Berlin takes this approach much further. In an auction at the Army Museum in Stockholm she bought a 1940 Victor Hasselblad reconnaissance camera – the Ross – with some rolls of old film. Then she hired a helicopter and took aerial photographs of 1960s modernist housing outside of Stockholm using this old camera. Her project has several other strands including gathering other photographs taken by this camera that she found in archives in Sweden and also tracking down photographs of birds taken by Victor Hasselblad. She also made some amazing photographs of this 1940 camera, and the distinctive look of the Hasselblad models that we are familiar with is already in the DNA of this early prototype.
For more on the project, please see: www.susannekriemann.info/one-time-one-million-migratory-birds-romantic-capitalism/