Romanian photo cameras

I wrote these fragments 3 or 4 years ago, but they are still true :). So, I will use them as an introduction to my film camera collection.

I first started taking photos out of anxiety. It was the end of my first year as an art student and an endless summer vacation was about to begin. My mother gave me her old Zenith camera and a book from the eighties in which the technical aspects were explained. I set up a dark room in the bathroom, my mother had had her short period as a photography enthusiast, so she had all the equipment. I remember the happy trips to one shop where they were still selling the chemicals, although it was the end of the nineties and everybody was processing their films in one-hour labs. Of course, I never heard at that time of digital photography. I spent the long, slow, lonely days of that summer taking photos on the streets and the endless evenings processing the films in my dark room. I remember that standing in front of the enlarger, that was set on the washing machine, and then watching the image appear in the chemical bath, I was feeling something very close to happiness, and I was rarely happy at that time in my life.

One of these days, I took out my old photos and looked through them, hoping that I would find some that I would still like. There are hundreds of almost abstract images, textures of bricks and plaster on dilapidated buildings, textures of grass and tree bark from the parks, lines of shadow dropped by the trees, architectural details from the façade of a church, a still life with a few light bulbs placed on tinfoil on my desk at home, etc. I tried to be an artist in those photos and at that time art had nothing to do with life. You cannot tell anything from those photos, not that the person who took them was a woman, that she was frightened, that she doubted her decision to go to art school, that time seemed to her an endless stream of empty moments. Also, you cannot see the city in which she lived, how the streets used to look like, how she used to look like, what people she would meet in her long walks or how would the light change on the walls of her room when she decided to stay at home. Only clumsy attempts to reach some sort of abstract detachment, whose coldness I considered to be art.

I started to do film photography again this summer out of anxiety. I work as an artist now and a big part of my life I wait. I wait for answers from the financers, I wait for the curator’s reaction, I wait to finish this project so that I could take a short break, maybe…In this waiting, life is always projected in the future and time transforms in a race towards that future. I blink once and the evening is here, I blink twice and the season changed. Meanwhile, I am happy many times and I fear that precious moments of peace and intimacy and feeling hopeful will be lost, while my personal diary transforms more and more into a to-do list and my thoughts are most of the time filled with practical, pragmatic things that must happen in the near future.
This time, I don’t care about art when I take photos. I just want to acknowledge to myself the present moment, to make the present mine. The view from my window in cold mornings, breakfast in the sun lit kitchen while the dog begs for food from under the table, the streets that I walk on every day but that can look so different in different lights, the loved, familiar faces of my friends, my own face, so close to my mental image of it when captured on the imperfect, blurred, soft, light leaked surface of the film. When using a film camera, time is materialised in the concreteness of the negative. You render a piece of time (that you are very much aware of while thinking that you should do, for example, a 1 second exposure in order to get an image of the not so well lit room in which we work and drink coffee) in a concrete object, a piece of film that you can hold in your hands. And this concrete object holds an image that the more imperfect it is the more accurately translates my memory into something that will not fade away and that I can show to others. My digital camera is practical and trustworthy but rarely accurate to my memories.

Same as almost 15 years ago, when I was waiting for the image to form on paper in the red light, now, when I wait to see the scanned image from the film on my computer’s screen, I feel happy.

I have and use several old cameras, that I will sometimes show here. These ones are the Romanian ones, produced in socialist times. I really like using them.

This is the first Romanian camera produced by I.O.R. (Romanian Optical Factory), in the mid fifties. It is metal, takes 120 film and it is very simple, but I really like the results it produces. I have found it at the flea market.

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This is Orizont, produced around 1960. I bought mine from a flickr friend. He told me I will have a surprise when my camera arrives in the mail, and I was so glad to discover that it used to belong to a worker’s union. DSC05795

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These are Oizont Amator and Amator -D. Both found online. They were produced between 1970-1989. My Amator-D is broken, the film advance is not working, but I shot 1 or 2 rolls, by advancing manually in the dark (more or less, dark meaning inside my bag, under my sweater, etc. ) each frame. I was really determined to use it :). But the other one is working fine and I use it often because it is so small and light and quite reliable for such a camera.

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This last one is the one I am most proud of: AFS. It is quite rare, because it was the last camera produced by I.O.R. (Romanian Optical Factory), in the late eighties. It is all plastic and I have read it was sold as a kit, for kids to build and learn about photography. I recognized it in a blurry online add, among other cameras, and I was sooo very happy! It takes surprisingly nice and sharp images in good light, on 120 film.

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5 thoughts on “Romanian photo cameras

  1. I too have a collection of old cameras! I love how the light leaks into, the feeling of the pictures. Though I haven’t used any of them in years. I love the grain of the film in your pics! Long time no see. And so beautiful, all of your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The cameras themselves are objects of art. Thank you for sharing such a personal piece of yourself with us. A question: Are the blurred borders due to light leakage? I love the third photograph from the end of the building at sunset. You are very talented.

    Like

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