Oh, the Zenit E! It’s a family heirloom, been in the family for longer than I have, straight from the Eastern European 60s, heavy, Russian-made and unapologetically ugly. It works a treat though, and accompanied me for what I only just realised must be literal decades. As such, it’s got a million stories attached to it, and I promised talking about the memories that go with each of the cameras, didn’t I? So here’s an early one.
My first real memory of this camera is a three day highschool trip to the south, when we were about 15. It shows my age that some people already carried early digital cameras by this point, yet I showed up with this steel brick of a machine around my neck. If some people laughed, they were kind not to do it to my face; but my head teacher got tremendously excited.
For sake of this story it has to be said that this was the first time that any teacher actually took notice of me at all — it’s easy to dismiss pupils who don’t appear to take interest in school things, and I for one was definitely always put down as a good-for-nothing. I was the typical kid who had a million interests but none of them fit in the traditional school curriculum, so I got largely ignored, labelled incompetent, and sometimes even bullied by teachers for my apathy. It was a bit of a vicious circle with my GPA getting consistently worse and me giving consistently less f*cks each year, but I guess it worked out really well in the end, coz I got to spend my school years doing interesting stuff, and still got into a good, maths-heavy Computer Science course without much difficulty. No regrets!
Anyhow, not only that I turned up with a real film camera in this budding digital age, I even knew how to use it! (Although this was no merit of mine, the Zenit made it really easy to expose correctly. All I knew of f-stops and shutter speeds at that point was that I first had to turn this knob, take a reading from the wee window next to it, and then turn the other knob to balance it out – I was utterly clueless to the why…) The head teacher was amazed and intrigued nevertheless. In many ways it was directly thanks to this camera that I ended up working for him in the editorial team of the school newspaper (a publication far beyond average highschool standards) and had a real chance at getting involved with anything meaningful and school-related. Who knew, sometimes old un-sexy equipment can really get you to places.
I still have all the prints from that trip (only three turned out great, but I never felt the need to tell that to the head teacher), but instead of digging those up, to finish off, here are a few scans of more recent negatives from around Edinburgh:
Tram works, Dublin Street looking North, Edinburgh 2013
Old and new, Quartermile, Edinburgh, 2013
Road closed, Waverley Station, Edinburgh, 2013
If you enjoy a lot of black and white, and occasionally some heavily de-saturated colour, then there’s a good few more over at my Zenit E album on flickr »