I’ve been wanting to visit the Pacific Northwest for a while and finally had the chance in late April. My wife and I rented a car and drove from Seattle to Portland and everywhere in between stopping along the way for anything that caught our eye. One of our unexpected stops brought us to a tiny Mom & Pop shop in Seattle jammed so full of antique oddities you could hardly walk through. Amid all the clutter something did, however, manage to catch my attention, a 1970′s Kodak Instamatic X-15. For some reason, which I’ll explain shortly, I’ve been drawn to retro photography, not just hipster Polaroids but anything that looks like it wasn’t taken in the last 30 years. So I gave the big plastic camera a once over and decided to go for it. I figured if I’m going to get into it why not while amidst some interesting scenery. What I didn’t realize was that the film (126) has been out of production since 2007 and is rather hard to find. After some searching I found a place in Portland that had some in stock, which happened to be our next destination. Luck. From then on I started clicking away at waterfalls, tree moss, mountains, anything, not knowing if they were even going to turn out.
It was a strange adjustment to not see exactly what the photo looked like immediately after taking it. I had to wait till the entire roll was shot then send it away to be developed and wait for prints to return. Old school. Which is precisely why I’m drawn to retro photography. It slows things down, makes the process feel more important, more special, and gives you back a physical object. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been reading 1984 lately or I’ve just grown tired of doing everything digitally but I like the idea having a connection to the past. I can’t remember the last time I had a print made of a vacation photo, which has somehow made these prints feel more important. They aren’t necessarily better, they just aren’t exclusively on a screen or a hard drive. Who knows when the .jpg will become obsolete?
On a side note I had these developed and printed at Blue Moon Camera and Machine who are definitely still connected to the past (they even repair typewriters, yea typewriters.) They also operate one of the last remaining optical printing labs in the world and it shows in the prints. The colors turned out better than I could have imagined and they were more accurate than any of our other photos we took with our digital. I highly recommend trying them out, you’ll definitely notice the difference in quality. As good as digital has gotten over the years there’s still something about dark room prints that feel better.. maybe it’s just nostalgia. Something to think about next time you head out with a camera.
If you want to see the rest of the photos they’re posted on Flickr here.
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Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2010