Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Camera Affection of Cara Jo Miller

Cara Jo Miller is a photographer, designer, knitter, and runner who lives in Downtown Detroit, US. She has a serious obsession with film cameras, in fact she has nearly 60 film cameras in her possession. Most of them still work!


She shared about her vintage camera collection:

I have a camera collecting sickness. I can tell you when and where it started too. March 2006, with a Polaroid 420 Land Camera I got for $0.79 at St. Vinny’s Thrift Shop in Marquette. I frequently shopped at St. Vinny’s and loved to look at the old vintage cameras they had behind the glass and thought “what would I ever do with that, it’s not ‘cool’.”. One day I saw this Polaroid sticking out of the camera bin with all the other cheap 35mm $0.50 cameras. I figured, what the heck, it’s only $0.79! After much research I found out what type of film it needed, where I could get it, how to take photos with it, etc. One of the arms had broken for the bellows and I had to super glue it back together, but it worked.

I took about 10 or so packs of film with that camera, carrying a timer and a trash bag around with me when I would go out photographing things. I learned about Polaroid transfers, how you can get the emulsion off the photo paper and put it on something else. I also did some Polaroid Negative Transfers, which was tricky to do while wandering around taking photos.

The point is that this $0.79 camera changed everything for me in terms of photography. I had a new taste for photography. I wanted to know about all types of cameras, all film types, uses, everything. I appreciated the differences that the camera had on the film and realized that the camera and the photographer make the photo worth while. I can achieve that grainy, soft blur, vingette look that people try to duplicate in Photoshop with one click, on a camera from 1953 that cost me $4. You should be pretty jealous of that.


Pictures above showing Cara's vintage camera collection on shelves, from top to bottom left to right:
  • Kodak Tourist
  • Kodak Six-20 Junior
  • Contaflex
  • Kodak Vigilant Six-20 Junior
  • Kodak Duaflex II
  • Kodak Instamatic X35
  • Kodak Brownie Bullet
  • Argus 75
  • Polaroid SX-70 (non-working)
  • Kodak Retina
  • Argus C3
  • Polaroid SX-70 (working)
  • Kalimar Reflex
  • Kodak Brownie Bullet II
  • Ricoh S2
  • Kodak Hawkeye
  • Yashica TLR
Over time I started collecting cameras, from Polaroid to Kodak to that one off brand no one ever heard of. A lot were gifts, most are from thrift stores or antique shops, and a few are from ebay. But all of them are mine, and I know all of them like they are my children. I know how to open one of my Polaroid SX-70s because the mirror is stuck flipped up, and how many turns it takes in my Kodak Brownie Bullet for one exposure of 35mm film (it’s supposed to take 127mm, but I modified it).

My collection has grown to nearly 50 (now nearly 60) film cameras. I have always wanted to use every single one of them, but never had the time or the money to do it. With my Photo a Day project I’ve found the perfect opportunity to do it.

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