C, and I were recently shopping at Moona Star™ were she found this really cool hand-dyed, hand-stitched sweatshirt by a brand that we’ve never heard of but instantly loved. I Stole My Boyfriends Shirt™ is one of those brands that we really like because they source vintage goods and then reform them to fit their own ethos, their own characteristics and make them speak from their personal narrative. There’s nothing that we love more than supporting cool DIY brands that make big impacts fueled by passion.
The gal and I were getting french fries from The Sunset this weekend like we sometimes do and I happened to walk by a vintage VW bus with a surfboard cascading along the sand under an umbrella. The way the sun was hitting it made me want to capture it so I asked the owner if it would be okay if I snapped a photo. He obliged. After firing off two shots I thanked him and was about to walk away. Mid-step he said “check this out”, not sure what to expect, I walked around the side of the van and now ankle deep in sand to find one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The guy, Tony, turned the old VW van into an upscale rolling mobile photo booth, accurately named Malibooth. He was even kind enough to let the gal and I take a few spins in the booth before his clients were about to arrive.
Photography always has a romantic way of surprising me. A simple request to take a photo of a random dudes surfboard in the sand in front of his old VW van turned into me interacting with a really cool guy with an even cooler business that left me with a special keepsake that’s now permanently displayed on our fridge.
Thanks again, Tony. Everyone be sure to check out Malibooth
So wild, I literally just finished writing about the Agfa™ Sensor series (below) and look what arrived in todays mail from Japan. Also, I know I stated that I wouldn’t be covering any MJU’s or T4’s because I’ve had so many of them throughout the years but it just so happened that I found an MJU II for super cheap so I figured, why not buy it. I’m still not sure if I’m going to keep it or not.
I’ve been obsessed with the Agfa™ Optima Sensor series 35mm cameras since I stumbled upon them online last month. If you’re an industrial design buff like me you, you’ll appreciate all of the mindful design elements that went into the final production of these compact shooters. For starters you, your eye gets directly drawn to the big red shutter button and huge viewfinder. Its like looking out of a window of your dream home into your dreamworld. You also can’t help but to notice the uncanny resemblance of old Braun™ designs by none other than the infamous, Dieter Rams. The cameras are lightweight and jam packed with German engineered technology that was extremely advanced for the 1980’s era but still function seamlessly in todays photographic exploration. As soon as my eyes scanned over the images of the Agfa™ Optima Sensor online, it was lust at first sight.
As of today, I officially have three of the series that I had to have shipped from different corners of the world. Two Optima Flashes and one Optima Sensor (same as the 535) and have one more on the way from Japan. The funnest part about collecting these cameras is the fact that you have to search and source them from all over the world as there’s not too many people who want to let go of the ones that have survived over the years. If anyone out there reading this has one for sale, please let me know :)
Where do I begin? Well, for starters I purchased this Yashica™ Auto Focus Motor II on eBay for $18 from a buyer who didn’t indicate if it worked or not. I just figured it looked cool and would make for a nice paper-weight on my desk but a part of me was also hoping that this old girl still had some air in her lungs. Made in the early 80’s and was way ahead of its time by being the first motorized compact on the market, I prepared myself for a piece of workspace decor. Upon its arrival I instantly popped in two fresh AA batteries to which there was no pulse. I figured it was hopeless to try to resurrect it since I’m not a camera technician but I did remember a guy at a flea market once telling me to always check battery terminals and to clean them out when dealing with old cameras. I got a wet-wipe and jammed it into the battery compartment with a screwdriver and twisted it around until I could see the corrosion fading and the shiny silver prongs glistening like a nickel in the sun (I just learned that you should use vinegar for this trick). Again, I know nothing about working on cameras and I’m about as delicate in the process as a drunk person running through a rose garden. However, it worked. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I could be a rocket engineer after this feat or surely map out the quantum physics that would lead us as a society into a carbon-neutural global travel initiative. I loaded in a roll of expired Fuji™ Superia Xtra 400 from 2001 that I found at a Goodwill and figured I would take her for a spin.
As you can see from the photos above, the camera actually performed way better than expected. Granted, it’s very temperamental and the auto focus is ‘on the spectrum’ and there was a few times that I had to turn it off and on again to get the power jump-started but for a camera that’s around forty years old, I would say it was worth every cent of the $18 price tag. It has a very charming disposable camera vibe that a lot of people really like but encapsulated in a fun, easy to use, hefty body. My biggest issues with it was the focusing and the flash recycling time as I like to shoot close and fast. After getting the scans back from Dark Room Film Lab I realized that a lot of frames were definitely outside of its focusing range.
Would I recommend you buying one? That depends on what type of look you’re trying to obtain in your photos. If you want snapshot images that aren’t super sharp and are somewhat flat but still embody vintage looking fashion and party photos, then yes this is your shooter for sure. If you can find one in working condition for under $20, I say grab it because I’ve read stories of people picking these up at thrift stores for $5 and selling them for over $100 on eBay. I’ll break down my pros and cons below.
- Motorized film advance
- Takes AA batteries
- Decent lens
- Captures vibey vintage style photos
- Manual ISO (you can push the film)
- Decent flash
- Very easy to use
- Great beginner camera
- Great disposable upgrade
- View finder takes getting used to
- Not the most comfortable in hand
- Focusing range takes getting used to
- Like your favorite uncle, it’s old and very temperamental
- The clamshell and ergonomics makes it easy to get your fingers in the frame (last photo)
- Flash recycling time is a bit slow (but so will mine be when I’m over forty)
- Doesn’t auto rewind after the last frame (this technology came later)
So there you have it, the first round of First Roll™ and there’s tons more coming. As most of you can tell from my Instagram stories and blog posts lately, I’ve been on a buying frenzy in search of my own personal favorite point and shoot that isn’t in the cool kids, cult classic, club.
Thank you @_Jtchapps for letting me test this out on you.
You know when you decide to surf the net first thing in the morning while listening to old Italian music from the 1960’s and sipping espresso when you suddenly get taken down a visual rabbit hole that hopscotches from one URL to another until finally you strike creative inspiration? No? It must just be me then. That’s what happened today when I started out at my favorite fashion website which then took me to an article on Aaron Rose which then took me to his website where that door opened up to a short documentary on Hamburger Eyes™ that he directed. I’ve know of Aaron Rose for years. In fact, he was one of the first names I remember discovering when I was heavily influenced by the likes of Supreme™ and Terry Richardson when I first started doing photography. AR owned the Alleged Gallery in New York when the city was dirty and the candid snapshots of that era were equally as gritty. For someone like me who lived in the suburbs of Thousand Oaks CA, it seemed like the perfect dreamworld. I would fantasize about the day that I could be wild and free and document my debauchery in a way that resonated with me and where I was at in that stage of my life. Graffiti, skateboarding, drugs, music, sex and art in all types of shapes and mediums, what more could an isolated kid ask for?
It was interesting to stumble upon this documentary today because I’ve heard of Hamburger Eyes™ in the past but never really paid much attention to it other than knowing it was photography based. Personally I thought it was a one photographer and left it at that. After watching this short I realized that its so much more special than one person, it’s a collective of people who love photography and documenting life and make it a point to produce something tangible, zines. I used to Xerox my own zines on a old photocopier when I was an office manager. I would wait until everyone was gone and work all night trying to layout my images and then stapled the bundled stacks of warm black and white paper together and gave them away to anyone that would take one. Zines used to be huge and I think for any individual that is prone to capturing life through a lens and has any sort of DIY attribute sewn into their DNA, a zine is just something that you do. You want to do it, you need to do it, and its something that’s compelled from passion. It’s the best way to publish your own work in a manner that isn’t in a cloud but can be held in a hand, flipped through, browsed, ripped and taped onto a wall. A zine is the archetype for what will later be your Magna Carta. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget about my roots and how much more fun things where when I did it by hand. In todays age we all just upload tons of images but these virtual indexes have no life, no soul. They’re merely renderings transmitted for a split second and then lost forever in the never-ending scroll. If Instagram was to crash today, or even worse, if the world was to crash tomorrow, what significance of your creative pursuits would be left behind for the next civilization to discover? Heavy, I know, but sometimes we are so busy chasing the instant gratification that we forget why we even started creating in the first place.
Watch the documentary, warm up your Xerox machine or printer, put a new blade in your Xacto knife, load a fresh cartridge of staples and get to work.
It’s wild how fast my calendar is filling up (makes me wonder if we’re still in a pandemic) but I can’t complain because it feels good to get the creative gears greased and getting back to my regular hectic work schedule. Feel free to email me if you would like to book me to shoot a project or a one-on-one sitting with me. Rates and locations are given upon agreed booking.
I don’t know if it’s a product of my OCD or the fact that I can’t operate amongst clutter but I was inclined to keep the case motif going with this travel size compact point and shoot storage. It was extremely hard to not buy a bigger case to house all of my compacts but that would just be absurd so I limited myself to a three camera capacity. For the first round I figured I would pack the Monami, Espio 80 and the 110 Zoom, all of which I just got and am extremely excited to take for a spin.
I was cleaning out a cabinet this morning and found these photos of Jana hanging out at my apartment when I lived on Norton Avenue in West Hollywood. It was really weird because the polaroids instantly transported me back to that exact moment and I remembered how we were shooting some images for a Coca-Cola™ collaboration. After we got the shot, she put on her sweater and we started getting into a deep dialogue about life. As we were talking, she randomly put on a pair of my shoes that were sitting by the chair. I don’t know why she put them on but I thought there was something very compelling about it and it made me grab my camera.
I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I have never used a light meter in my decade long photographic journey. Over the years I sort of figured out how to eyeball the atmosphere and dial in the settings or I simply used my go-to flash snapshot aesthetic to get the shot. Lately I’ve really been trying to elevate my style, especially when it comes to film, so I figured it was time to invest in a light meter. I’ve always wanted the Sekonic™ L-358 because I thought it looked cool and it has a radio transmitter add-on option that allows you to fire your strobes to get a reading. Now, I’m not a tech guy in the slightest and was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to turn it on, let alone make it magically give me the missing number to my exposure triangle. Upon receiving it in the mail yesterday, I couldn’t believe how easy this thing was to use. I honestly had it spitting out numbers in the first ten minutes like I was a trained interrogation specialist. Instructions you say? For peasants. I never even opened up the booklet. As you can see from the photos above, it allows you to dial in the correct exposure then you can take your own creative liberties from there. It’s a lot better than guessing a starting point or even worse, trying to get the right exposure from your DSLR screen, which is almost never accurate.
Would I recommend getting a meter? From where I am now and for what I’m trying to achieve, I would say yes. Especially if you’re investing a lot of your time and money in film. I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute necessity when it comes to digital, especially if you dig the snapshot vibe and are rarely using strobes. Also, from what I gather, I would only buy a Sekonic™ meter but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the top of the line unit. I got mine brand new with the radio transmitter for $250 shipped. I’ve seen some other cool ones like the Sekinic™ L-308x for less and is pretty much the standard for many notable film photographers. Then there’s some fully digital units that look like an iPhone 40 that range well into the over $600 area, which to me, has major “tiny weener” vibes written all over it. Just get one that’s in your budget because ultimately they all do the same thing.