Retro-style in photography: where does fashion end and need begins?

    Retro-design cameras, retro-twist for mechanical shutter speed and aperture, with retro buttons and thread under the retro cable for the descent. Retro effects. Mounts and adapters for retro optics. In the kit for cameras with a screen of more than three inches, they forget to attach only a retro cloak so that the photographer, hiding with the camera and the tripod, can more accurately frame the retro composition using Live view, a 36 megapixel sensor and a bronze unenlightened lens “petzval”, with aperture like a pinhole in a matchbox.

    The pictures show a solid vintage. The lady in the tournament against the backdrop of “Moskvich-401”, popularly nicknamed “shtirlitsom”, boils a rusty kettle on a kerogas. The crumbling wall of the church, decorated with a life-affirming inscription: “NOGGANO”, serves as a vintage retro background for a girl who is ineptly working as a bedpan. Black and white shots. Sepia. Uranus. Cyanotype. Artificial cracks and torn edges in digital photographs, making the viewer believe that every byte of this particular picture has been in all conceivable alterations from the days of Nisefor Dager to Operation Desert Storm. Cute girls with iPhones in their hands look at us from the pages of retro photos, making us believe that we, contemporaries, could now listen to their memories of the Japanese attack on Port Arthur.
    No, I do not criticize indiscriminately the whole retro style as a phenomenon. Everything has its own meaning and its own place, and for the retro style, this meaning and place can certainly be determined logically. But I, the proud owner of the Fujifilm X-E2 with mechanical twists and retrodesign, as well as the Fujifilm X-A1 with the most common PASM-drive, more than once or twice caught myself thinking that I put all the wonderful mechanics of the wheels and buttons of the first of the designated cameras more often with responsible filming in position “A”. But once I went through the entire film school, I didn’t part with Kiev-4A and I can still say “paraphenylenediaminetetraacetic acid” without hesitation, although I recovered from eczema caused by this damn acid a good quarter century ago.
    I’m trying to understand what we photographers are looking for in “retro magic”, both technically and aesthetically. And if criticism of such things as compositional bad taste goes far beyond the scope of this site, then it’s not only possible, but also necessary, to talk about the technical side of things.
    And, yes, I’m constantly wearing the Jupiter-9 rangefinder without any signs of enlightenment on one of the Fujiks. I love this retro lens, although I don’t see any “magic” in it. This is an honest analogue of “one hundred and thirty five” for crop, with good plasticity of the picture, very reasonable resolution and a price of as much as five hundred rubles. Great for portraits in the open air. And for magic - to parapsychologists and psychics, please ...

    Briefly about the main thing

    What is this article about? About not letting yourself be deceived by the “fashion trend” in retro style, but clearly understanding in each specific case what and how can be achieved with retro photographic equipment.
    The retrospective self-analysis algorithm can be represented as a tree in which the final decisions are highlighted in bold text:
    What do you want from retro?
    1. Shooting?
    • Interesting look "retro"?
      - To marketers, for a stylish accessory!
    • Interested in analog control?
      - Feel free to buy Nikon Df, "watering can" or older Fujifilm.
    • Is the analog (film) result interesting?
      Do you really want to film?
      You do not have enough medium format for a reasonable price?
      - Buy a good film camera, not necessarily junk.
    • Do you collect junk?
      - In the trash, for "Sharp-4"!
    • Interested in old optics?
      * For reasons of economy or collectible?
      - Buy a mirrorless adapter and adapters, you will not regret it .
      * Do you think to convey the spirit of the era with the help of optically uncorrected junk?
      - To the psychiatrist.
    • Are you a fashionable “lomograph”?
      - Your actions have nothing to do with photography. Do what you want!

    2. Pictures?
    • To convey the "retro spirit", with dust, cobwebs and rusty teapots a la Tarkovsky?
      - Shoot on any camera. Daguerreotype will not make your picture older!
    • Make a real reconstruction in the photo?
      - In the trash, for accessories. Even better - to the museum or to the reenactors.

    3. It is not clear what you want?
    - Take a couple of films onto a workable film camera.
    • Did you like to control the process manually?
      - Feel free to buy Nikon Df, "watering can" or older Fujifilm.
    • Did you like to twist and twist junk in your hands?
      - Collect old cameras. Shooting is not necessary!
    • Do you like the spirit of the era, you have to do everything yourself, is there spirituality in the film, etc.?
      - To the psychiatrist.

    The considered action algorithm, generally speaking, is surprisingly not universal. But it has a valuable property that is common to all algorithms, namely: its application makes you leave alone purely “spiritual” considerations in the style of “I want something, but I don’t know what”, organize my thoughts and do the same thing, that is, photographing. And in order to bring some theoretical basis for this algorithm, in the following sections of the article I will try to consider certain aspects of what is generally called a “retro style”.

    Section One. Retro style in modern photographic equipment

    In order not to get confused in terminology, I will divide two concepts in advance: “retro”, that is, modern old-fashioned fake, and honest “vintage”, that is, photographic scrap removed from grandfather's suitcase or found in the nearest garbage can. On the last phenomenon, in order to avoid inconsistencies, I note in advance the following: in the USSR they did excellent photographic equipment (if it did not fall into the percentage of marriage, as happened with my first Zenith-B), and all lamentations about “terrible soviet works, due to a misunderstanding named cameras ”, will not be mentioned and discussed in this article.
    But back to business. Why do the playful pens of photographers reach for antediluvian lenses and modern mega-functional cameras with twisters of the Aurora cruiser era? Do you think the matter here is in the spirit of the era, in the vintage of warm lamp and film technologies, in the fragrant charm of a metol-hydroquinone developer? I'm sure not. Everything rests in a difficult and not too conscious feeling: in direct control of non-linear processes.
    Photography (both digital and film) is, as is customary to say today, matan. Moreover, both mathematical analysis in the literal sense (it is needed here and there in photography, just for studying non-linear processes and controlling them), and in a more general, cultural sense: the synthesis of art, science and technology under the control of the mind, awareness of the role of the creator in the creation of creation based on the objective laws of the universe. It is not by chance that this meaning of the word “matan” ennobled it, becoming more and more popular. Automation does not kill “creativity” and not “spirit”; instead, it sometimes takes away the awareness of what the author is doing and passes it on to a machine — sometimes smarter and more attentive, but certainly no more sensitive than the creator, to the original design of creation.
    That’s where the desire to twist and calculate the numbers comes from - a desire with equal strength inherent in photographers and motorists, aquarists and painters, radio enthusiasts and musicians. Direct control over the action, a direct vision of what is happening and a direct, accurate knowledge-based intervention in the process - these are the true essence of the popularity of “krutilok” and “whistles”, the essence of disputes on the “best box” and “MTF curves” forums, the meaning of sleepless nights, carried out by sawing out diffusion filters from a piece of a nylon colander, which suddenly came up to the Great Design of the Creator in diffraction properties (I am not at all ironic when I write these words with a capital letter).
    Did you know this yesterday? “Nothing,” you say? Then why so much anger and contempt for those who continue to shoot “in the green zone”, or even an iPhone? So many groans in “used to be better” and in the smell of warm, acidic fixer dissolved in water mixed with a glass rod? Do you not realize in this case that your part of the work is not complete, that such things as composition, dynamics, design structure can well be transferred to the “bydlodeys” with a single button “Take off the masterpiece” ?! Where did these vigils come from in forums, in workshops and in garbage cans with photographic equipment, if not from the natural desire to rise above the laws of nature, putting them at your service ?!
    Marketers, by the way, do not understand this. By releasing a “retro camera”, they make sure that it “matches the style of the 70s” (the spirit of the 50s, the zeitgeist of the pre-war “watering can”, the smell of the mossy French daguerreotype of the times of General Halif) ... But the convenience of analog control of non-linear processes, Alas, in second place. Therefore, there is a shutter speed selection dial on most pseudo-analog “Fujics” in the eternal position “A”. It is enough for the photographer to confidently manage one or two parameters, and he will be happy. When the camera manufacturers understand this completely, and will not make mistakes anymore, like stuffing SD- under one lid with the battery of the slot in the beautiful Nikon Df - then the heavenly pipes will burst, then the adherents of “Nikon” and “Canon” will reconcile with each other and with “ lecherniki ”, then there will come freedom, the happiness of peoples and peace in the photographic hearts.

    Section Two. Antediluvian lenses

    "Vintage optics." So we call the process in which the skewed pipe from the FED with two surviving glasses of six gets up through the adapter of the company "Uncle Liao and nephews" to our ultramodern "carcass". Putting a "vintage glass", you must certainly photograph a drop of water on a piece of paper or a girl with a tournament. So that everyone appreciates the “bokeh” and “plasticity” that are absolutely unattainable on these modern lenses of yours, automated according to the lens hood. To make it clear that the lamp spirit of those times, when this optics cost hundreds of those bucks, and was made at the same factory (and from the same materials) with neutron initiators for atomic bombs, can never be surpassed by anyone.
    Well, people tend to respect old age. It’s bad when they parasitize on this respect. It’s bad when the Krasnogorsk plant produces its non-autofocus “helios-40” almost for fifteen thousand rubles for a new lens. It’s bad when the resellers, using the exaggerated myths about the “plasticity of the super-Takumar” or the “amazing bokeh of Mayer trioplanes”, start selling these terrible glasses for six to seven thousand plus shipping. But worst of all, when a krivoruky amateur photographer goes and dumps this money, and then suffers: what did I get for my hard-earned money, what did I, the fool, lack in my 18-55 IS / VR ?!
    Let's try, according to the example of the algorithm given at the beginning of this article, to analyze the desire to possess ancient lenses according to the results achieved with their help. So, using obsolete optics we can get the following things:
    • A good lens with the appropriate focal length and / or aperture for cheap money, or even for free;
    • The ability to "join" the elite club of the owners of the famous optics of a certain brand (usually we are talking about "watering cans", less often about "Zeiss", "zuyki" and "limits");
    • The pleasure of collecting optics of a certain type;
    • Enthusiasm for "bokeh", "humidity", "drawing" and the like of uncertain things.

    I will not argue about the significance of any of these criteria. It is important that none of them, including the first, adds anything specially good to the technical parameters of photography and snapshot. Moreover, it will not bring “retro spirit” into the picture. We’ll talk about this in the next chapter, but for now we can accept it as an empirical rule: if you are not a collector, but a photographer, then a reasonable price for “interesting lens” or even “legendary glass” from mechanical cameras of past years should not exceed one hundred dollars, and if he has a mechanical pairing with your camera (that is, it is relatively modern), then two hundred and fifty. Otherwise, sooner or later you will begin to bite your elbows, looking at the shelf, cluttered with unnecessary optical trash. And, even worse, spread the legends about the "wonderful moisture of Minolt's lenses" and "the incomparable picture of Takumars,"

    Section Three: Film and Film Cameras

    Film is good. If you have anyone to show it, or you know how to do it yourself. Shoving the Kodak Gold film into the camera for 12 frames by buying it at a kiosk around the corner, and then showing and scanning it in the 3000x2000 pixel format is not a healthy task. Nothing good will come of it, but spend a lot of money and time.
    In Zamkadye, a medium-sized film is almost impossible to get, processing it is even more difficult, and when buying through auctions, you always have a chance to buy anything or get a veil in the pictures from improper storage of the film during transportation. On the other hand, modern full-frame and even cropped cameras have improved the quality of images so much that they have long become a tool of choice for the most “advanced” and fastidious masters. Does it make sense to mess with the film? Perhaps there is: about the same as for the artist to work with oil in the age of acrylic. The time-consuming and poisonous process provides the same increased level of “analog” control over all stages, which makes manual settings in cameras so popular when shooting.
    I repeat: this all makes sense only if you develop the films yourself or give them to a good developer who knows how and is ready to work with your personal plan. And, considering the process of film photography on this side, and not as an “analog miracle”, we again come to the conclusion that it is necessary to use the most modern technical solutions to get the right film picture. Film is not a number; it does not forgive mistakes at any stage of working with it. And the retro soap dish will always be the worst choice for the right photo than the ultramodern film “canon” or “Nikon” of several thousand dollars at a price. Plus a developing machine, reagents, a drum scanner ... Buying a full-frame digital SLR is cheaper! And on “Viliya-Auto” from the garbage can you lock up from 10 to 90 percent of the pictures, depending on the curvature of the hands,
    With your permission, I will not discuss lomography in this blog at all. Conscious and malicious deterioration of the technical quality of the results should not become a fashionable trend. If someone likes it, let him do it; but, as I wrote above, photography has nothing to do with art in either technical or technical terms.

    Section Four: Retro-Style Photos

    This feature is primarily art, not technology. Speaking about the technical side of the issue, I’ll say only one simple and obvious thing for 99% of people familiar with this phenomenon:
    You don’t need to use retro cameras and retro technology to get retro-style photos! All the necessary retro effects can be easily and simply applied to the picture in the most ordinary photo editor! So do the professionals, so do you.
    It would seem, obviously, that the idea of ​​using Cartridge to simulate Cartier-Bresson, and with the help of a 4x5 gimbal camera, Ansel Adams, is quite consistent with the idea of ​​imitating Van Gogh's paintings, cutting off his ear. (I no longer touch upon the purely moral as well as legal aspects of such imitation!) Adams shot the eternal beauty of nature, and Cartier-Bresson worked with the modern world. I am sure that both of them would not have refused the modern Olympus or Canon with high-speed autofocus. Moreover, I believe that Cartier-Bresson would shoot almost all of his stories in the program, or even in the “green” mode, if he had such a mode on the camera. A long time ago, we visited the “green zone”, dear colleagues?
    Although I promised not to touch on the artistic aspects in this article, I will mention a couple of them. The first is lighting. Lighting on retro photographs, except for photographs of bars and similar places, can be of two grades - daylight or very warm, necessarily spotted. And the candle, and the kerosene lamp, and Ilyich’s bulb give light at a temperature of about 2000-2700 kelvin. Not only illumination with fluorescent lamps of indefinite temperature, but also the scattered light from a flash (even with a light filter) in retro frames always looks completely unnatural.
    The second technical and art aspect is, oddly enough, the requirement of no trace of time in retro photographs. If we see a girl in a blouse of a sample of the late 1940s who cooks food on kerogaz - kerogaz and saucepan must not be rusty, there should not be faded spots on the jacket, and the cobweb in the corner of the kitchen and the buffet covered with ancient dust should generally be completely excluded. Otherwise, we depict not the 1940s, but the usual sloppiness and begging. Unfortunately, many retro photographers do not understand this, with pleasure and for parading photographing dropped bicycle knitting needles, long-term scum drips on teapots, patina and cobwebs on top of typewriter typewriter keyboards ... Retro should emphasize the unity of life, and not preach the cult of death and oblivion!


    In conclusion, I will be brief. Do not confuse retro shots, retro design accessories (which may include the camera), and garbage collection vintage. Every vegetable has its own urn. And the "wheels", like the "green mode", have objectively determined technical purpose on the cameras; therefore, we hope that cameras with analog control will become more and more every year.

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