In the year 2020, I was part of a photography project where I shot one camera, my Holga 120 CFN, for an entire year. Each month, I would photograph a theme, pick one of the photos, and share it with the community. It was mostly a great time. A camera as primitive as a Holga can help encourage creativity by forcing a photographer to focus on subject, not settings. I want to carry on that tradition, but honestly I don’t feel right burning through a bunch of really expensive 120 film in a low-fi camera. However, I am going to put my foot down and shoot primarily with one camera. It will have one lens. I will use one brand of film. I will do this for all of 2021.
Why One Camera, One Lens, One Film ?
There are a handful of reasons I want to do this. First, the confusion of choices is killing my desire to pick up a camera. I stare at my growing collection and can’t decide from one day to the next what I’ll take with me. Resolving to use one camera all year gives me something predictable. When I go camping, down to Beale Street, out of town on a vacation, then this camera goes with me. No more confusion. I know what film to take, what lens to use, and what my limitations are.
I’d also like to have a project, and “One Camera, One Lens, One Year” is a catchy title. I can take as many pictures as I want, shoot any location, nearly any time, and have something so consistent, I can put it in a book. Yes, I want to publish a photography book. I want to make a lot of photos so that I have a lot to curate when I put the book together.
Additionally, I need to grow as a photographer. I love photography, and I dig it that people recognize the hard work I’ve devoted to becoming a better photographer. Over time, I’ve drifted from practicing and improving my abilities, to collecting a bunch of different cameras and making a bunch of mediocre photos. I can’t get better if I’m toting around so many cameras, so I’m making a concerted effort to again focus on the subject, not the settings… but with a caveat. This camera has more settings than the Holga.
Already I want to start this sentence with “tentatively, the camera will be…” but that kind of thinking will only sink my ship. I am using my Leica M3. * pause for the collective sighs of disappointment from the Internet * Yes, I know every millennial with a beanie and beard that wants to be the next Mangum photographer is running around with a Leica. Even Aquaman has a hearty collection. However, I’m going to be honest: I spent a lot of money to get this camera, and to leave it on a shelf doesn’t make sense. I bought it from a Leica store, not just some hack auction from somebody that found it at an estate sale. It’s a solid camera that I’ve repaired and maintained myself, and I can use it in nearly every situation I might find myself in. It will be OK. I’m not a Leica snob. I can’t afford to be one of those elites. I have a second-hand Leica M3 from 1955 with a liquid latex patch on the shutter. Don’t judge me. 😉
The Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 is an amazing lens. It’s sharpness when stopped down is matched only by the sharpness of its retail price. At its fastest, the bokeh is dreamy. I won’t be using the Noctilux, though, I just think it’s a great lens. No, I’ve taken a more humble (to my wallet) path and purchased a 7 Artisans 50mm f/1.1 . Still dreamy bokeh, still sharp stopped down, but it’s a honking huge lens that doesn’t demand several thousand dollars to own. I am a 50mm fan. This focal length provides some predictability for me since nearly every camera from the dawn of Wetzler to present day has a fast fifty in their arsenal. Hell, even the Soviets had a killer 50mm f/2 called the Jupiter 8; I own two of them! I prefer the 50mm focal length. I went for the Chinese lens because I am not afraid to drop a few ducats on a decent lens, regardless of the country of manufacture. Plus, the optics are fantastic.
German camera, Chinese lens, British film. Hello, my name is Aragon and I shoot Kentmere 400. I love this film for a few reasons. It’s wallet-friendly price keeps me well stocked without draining the bank. It’s also very predictable when shooting. I know I can push or pull one stop without having to do any extended developing. I can also use Rodinal on it with relatively nice results. In my experience, T-Grain films like Tri-X tend to get really harsh grain results in Rodinal, but Kentmere can handle it. Kentmere also develops nicely in D76 and Caffeinol. Lastly, although it doesn’t have the higher contrast of other films, I can slap an orange filter on my lens and pull some more contrast from the images, so it’s a solid choice of film for me. Plus, I’ve been shooting it and evangelizing it since 2016.
The year started in January, duh. However, I didn’t actually do much photography until this February. I’ve shot 4 rolls already and I’m anxious to run through more. I intend to push myself into using this camera for still life photography, portraits of my family, some night photography, car shows, trains, and other old machinery, and maybe even some nature photography. Using one camera for an entire year to just shoot one type of subject is going to be very boring, and it won’t make for a very good photography book — at least not one from me.
I want this to be a banner year in my development as a photographer. I’ve had enough of quarantines and masks and vaccines and politics. I want a camera and a good subject. This will be a great adventure!