Let Us Now Praise Crappy Cameras

Holgas, Dianas, and old Kodak Brownies are all the rage.  Outdated film, with its unpredictable results, is popular too.

Check out this link to a national contest:


For those of us who have spent most of our photographic lives pursuing the best technical quality that we could achieve, this current phenomenon puzzles us a bit.  On the one hand, we are thrilled that artists and young hipsters (whatever they are) are using roll film; but on the other hand, we wonder at the embrace of poor exposures, fuzzy lenses and light leaks.

I’ve gotten over it, but let me just say up front that I still have little interest in doing this myself.  It’s just not my style.  However, a photographer that I greatly admire uses these cameras.  So, who am I to judge?

Like many art movements, it may just be a reaction to the status quo.  Anybody can take a sharp, well-exposed picture with a relatively inexpensive digital point-and-shoot camera, or, of course, a phone!

Artist photographers are using simple, cheap cameras to illustrate that it is the photographer, not the camera, that makes the photograph.  Fair enough.  Younger people, who are not consciously thinking of themselves as artists have dived deep into the “lomography” thing for various reasons.  Nostalgia may be one.  Yes, one can use Instagram or other software to make digital captures look like old film photos, but why not just do it right (wrong?) at the start?  The right tool for the job, as it were.

Ecomonics is not what drives this.  Holgas and Dianas are surprisingly expensive.  And for the price of a plastic Brownie from the 50s or 60s, one can buy a decent 35mm film camera.

It’s a “thing”.  I sort of get it, but don’t need it.

In 1968, during Hemisfair ’68 in San Antonio, I rode the elevator to the top of the Tower of the Americas and held my Brownie Starflash, loaded with Kodak Verichrome Pan 127 film, over the side and took this picture:

tower small


Oh, who knows?  Although the aforementioned Starflash has sadly been lost over time, I have a small collection of these old bakelite cameras.  Maybe I’ll re-roll some 120 film onto 620 spools and try one out.


One thought on “Let Us Now Praise Crappy Cameras

  1. Pingback: Brownie Starflash | The Silver Darkroom

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