My first camera sported a plastic lens with a fixed, slightly wide-angle focal length. I was in my early teens and Mum had given me a Flash 350 made by Halina. I still enjoy picking up this black plastic box, empty of film, so that I can thumb the plastic wheel that squeaks with reassuring resistance as it spools through to what would be the next frame on the roll.
Later, when I first began to take a serious interest in the results that came back from the lab, I was looking at pictures made by a disposable camera, again with a fixed, wide-angle lens, and complete with the same audible winding squeaks and clicks.
Packing a few disposable cameras seemed a good solution for travel pictures. It was certainly possible for me, the novice, to let the pictures they produced impress me. I was not taking any photographs between travels so all my enjoyment came from creating memories of going abroad. With the results returning from the lab printed at a small size, I could see no problem with their technical quality – they brought me only happy memories of good times on holiday, and great views of amazing locations. It was a rewarding way to develop a photographic interest.
My first proper camera also set my perspective at a wide angle (at the focal length of 28mm). It was a Ricoh GR1v. Aside from housing one of the best lenses I’ve used, it felt as though it was hardly more advanced – in the sense of being no more difficult to operate – than the disposable cameras were! It was also roughly the same size in the hand. It added the ability to under- or overexpose the picture and to control the aperture.
So I would use this compact camera in much the same way as I had the disposable ones. I would simply frame and shoot – and rarely after needing to change what brightness or focusing character would be given to the results.
Most of the learning I went through came out of reviewing the prints. This was how I started – and largely how I would continue – my self-taught journey in photography.
This post is an edited version of one originally published in October 2013.
Copyright © by Markus MacGill, 2018. All rights reserved.