Retrograde Photography

I’ve always been fascinated by optics. I think old cameras and microscopes and lenses are really interesting. So when I found a 1952 Kodak Retinette model 017 camera to use, I was ecstatic. The camera is really interesting – it has a hatch in the front that opens to reveal and simultaneously extend the lens, which has a visible bellows behind it. Every step of the process that goes into taking pictures is manual, including a lever that must be cocked back before every shot (this may be a common feature on fully-mechanical cameras even today but, as I have never attempted film-based photography until now I am not sure). I decided to go out into the city and take some pictures to try it out. I gave myself only one rule: I could only take every shot once. No taking two or three or five versions of the same shot to pick out the best like I’d normally do. This time I had to trust my photographic abilities to make the best image possible. I think I did fairly well.

This was the picture I was most excited to see developed. I’m glad to say it came out really well. Isn’t that child adorable?

Because of the fully-mechanical nature of the camera I couldn’t rely on any sort of automation for things like focus, aperture, or shutter speed. This presented an interesting test of my photographic skills. It also meant that my ISO was fixed (the film I bought was at 200) so I couldn’t change that to adapt to brightness changes in my environment. While it sounds like these factors would be limiting, it actually meant I had a more immersive photographic experience that made it more fun. It also reaffirmed that I do have the skills necessary to not rely on digital assistance so much, which could improve the quality of the work done with my DSLR as well.

Sometimes, for whatever reason (mostly my fault, I’d guess) two subsequent shots would be combined into a single double-exposed image. While I’m sure the average vacation-goer in the 1950’s wouldn’t be pleased to see their posed family shots ruined by being combined with a memorable photo of their hotel I only intend to use this camera for artistic purposes. As such, I absolutely love the effect created by the double-exposures. Check out this awesome image created completely by accident:

If you want to see the rest of this project, you can visit the project page on Behance.

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Retrograde Photography

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