Shoot with your heart, not your head
The airport clerk tells me “Sorry Mr. Kräuter, your flight is cancelled.”. And that I’m booked for another plane that will leave Berlin in two hours. After a diplomatic expression of anger and some less diplomatic thoughts on the subject I suddenly realize something that puts a smile on my face: there are two premium compacts in my jacket that just wait for me to have enough time to put a roll of film or two through them in a little street session. Two hours playing with the scenes unfolding at an international airport. Scenes like this:
Working with a digital rangefinder it might sound odd to enjoy analog compacts. Here’s the story behind it. Initially the motivation to get a compact film camera was to check if analog photography still is a topic for me.
I shot exclusively analog when I was a student, mainly for budget reasons. I lost contact to photography when I started to work and re-entered the activity again a short while ago buying a used digital rangefinder. Turned out the initial invest for digital is higher but the fixed costs are close to zero.
So before both investing in an analog rangefinder and rising fixed costs I wanted to try analog with a cheap camera. I bough a little Olympus XA for 45€ which became my daily and more importantly nightly companion. Great lens, feels like a toy, actually is a pocketable rangefinder. The Stream of Consciousness series started with that camera.
When the XA died due to falling out of my jacket’s pocket in Stockholm earlier this year I missed having a camera waiting in my pocket. So there I am at Berlin Tegel airport having a Ricoh GR1V and a Contax T2 waiting to be be tested. I do not know it yet but by the time I write a blog post about this experience I will have realized that compacts are great, but not necessarily for street photography.
The thing with compacts is that I can take pictures with them in an even less disturbing way than with my M9. The hurdle to take a picture is only a fraction of a bit lower but I definitely take more pictures of my peers, friends and family.
A camera fitting in the pocket of my trousers enables me to frame all the opportunities I see during the course of the day – I do not hang my Leica over my shoulder after getting up, but the Contax T3 used in the image above was waiting in my pants when preparing the first coffee in the morning.
Having the Ricoh GR1V lying on the table next to my mobile phone became quite natural. When I saw the following scene emerging I just had to take a quick snap. I could not tell exactly what it was, but in retrospect I see some nice features in that image composition-wise that I was not consciously aware of the moment I decided to take the picture. I framed with my heart, not with my head, as Anders Petersen would probably sum it up.
That’s the story of me and compact analog cameras so far. I did not decide which one to keep yet, but it’s going to be a “photo finish” between the GR1V and the T3. Manual focussing is pretty important to me. The T2 would be way atop the T3, since it has dedicated focus and aperture controls, if it only would not have this insane shutter lag that makes it pretty unusable. The Ricoh is good for manual pre-focussing, although 28mm is a little wider than usual for me. The T3 is 35mm just like the Summicron I use on my rangefinder, but the manual focussing is “a little limited” to put it diplomatic. Autofocus is insanely fast though – let’s see… As a side note, a friend asked me “Why compacts? You could also afford an analog Leica setup.” It’s not about the price tag. In fact the T3 is close to an used analog Leica body already. It’s about the right tool for the job. For me when it comes to personal documentary a compact is the weapon of choice. They are a little slower than a rangefinder but have decent manual control and superb image quality, plus being the minimal possible disturbance. It also seems less difficult to let the brain step back and let the heart take over. I’ll try to frame more with the heart and less with the brain in general, so although my journey with compacts only just began this learning insight was worth the trip already.