Friday, 20 June 2008

Fun of the Fair

Last Friday morning, I ventured out with one trusty old Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex camera that's as ol' as me, and some expired Fujifilm NPC160 colour film which I rescued from the depths of my fridge in amongst the eggs and cheese, in an attempt to photograph a funfair that was being set up for the weekend's local crowd.




I have not used the Flex for a long while, it was probably about 3 years ago when I photographed my mother's portrait and it just sits on my bookcase looking pretty sorry for itself. I do occasionally 'play' with it, running a series of shots through the speeds from 1s - 1/500th s, to keep the shutter blades from seizing up.


From the moment I load the 120 film into the camera, it evokes a totally different approach to photography. Less hurried and more calculated, and definitely a pleasure to use. I often think of the past press and journalist photographers who used these cameras day in and day out, having to changed film rolls every 12 shots, whilst trying to cover a story unfolding before them, no wonder when the 35mm format came out, the Leica's and early Nikon Fs took over in a big way.



Nevertheless, many documentary photographers continued using these 6x6 tlrs because of the large square format, its beautiful lens renditions and I think, most importantly, its indirect, waist level finder. Diane Arbus used it for a number of years, and made many memorable portraits from her Rolleiflex.

I got to the fairground early and the grounds people were still setting up their contraptions, rides and bouncy-castles. These fairground people are real hardy in someways. They traverse the country from ground to ground, weekends to weekends, setting up and putting down their rides, and they live mainly in tow along caravans, complete with portable gardens, pets, and clotheslines. I got chatting to the owner of the Spinball ride. He told me that time are getting tough, rides cannot increase too much as it will drive customers away, however, fuel and transport cost are soaring. Still, they must eeked out a decent living running fairground rides. I do see many luxury 4x4s towing their caravans!




The fair had yet to open to the public when I got there so all of the rides and stalls were still shut. I love the atmosphere of anticipation. The surreal quality of the late morning light and the dead quiet of the funfair lends itself to a bizarre setting. 'Just add people' and the scene before will change.


I shot 3 rolls of NPC 160 in about 30 minutes, taking time to compose each shot, and check exposure with a manual meter. I am pretty good at guessing, using the Sunny 16 rule, but conditions were changeable and the sun was peeping in and out behind the clouds all the time.


I found that using an old camera such as the Rolleiflex, instead of a great big black hunk of a plastic monstrosity, people tend not to feel 'threatened' by you, it almost always become a talking point, like ''wow, that's a really old camera'' or ''what a nice camera'', and that breaks the ice for some stirring portraits. Unfortunately there were hardly any people worth photographing as the handful that were there were all busy setting up and I did not want to distract them from their activities.


Waiting for the processed film was again, like a child waiting to get home to play with his new toy. It was ages! Well, the 3 hours wait did feel like that compared with the digital process. I was, in the end, pleased with the outcome, and had a few usable images. The sun had become too high for any sort of effect I was searching, but at least I knew that the camera is still a capable machine and the expired film was decent.

I will at least look more kindly upon the Rolleiflex the next time I am dusting the bookshelf. Mind you I have decided to bring it to KL for the upcoming workshops!

17 comments:

tinytapir said...

oooo I totally want to see a photo of the camera itself! Love those old cameras..

Great photos too. Somewhat spooky :P (ok i guess i've watched too many movies)...

svllee said...

Hi tinytapir, thanks for your visit. I posted a photo of the Rolleiflex in my workshop blog. I do like that 'spooky' feel in these photos.

Me... Only Better said...

it's the clouds and the fact that that are no people around..gives rise to the spookiness..

the relatively artificial brightness, lights, noise and activity at night sort of belie the cold realities of the day...

or maybe its just me...hahaha

svllee said...

Hi Tehsin, yes the atmosphere in empty fairgrounds is indeed surreal, like its all for fun but no one is there to enjoy it... wow, you like cars I see,..nice Aston you've got..

Me... Only Better said...

yes, i love cars..ever since i could speak..haha...the fifties, sixties and seventies were the best years...the aston is my fav...the Brits really came out with great cars before...now its all TOSH...to borrow your term...hahaha

Me... Only Better said...

Hey, leavin tonite eh? join us for the Allblogs 100 days dinner with the MPs on Saturday? At Bukit Damansara...for details click on the logo on my blog...jomlah...

svllee said...

Would love to...I cannot make the entry deposit until Friday though..unless can you pay for me first ?! Promise to pay you back..my KL number is 0122145838

Me... Only Better said...

cannn..i pay for you first meh, ok?

Me... Only Better said...

BTW. my number is 012 276 5157...nanti kita jumpa di sana..my 10 year old will be coming too

Me... Only Better said...

haiyah....they postponed it to next Saturday pula...this Saturday, the Gerakan Anti ISA wants their support for mammoth gathering in Shah Alam against ISA with all the PR MPs...but i have already paid for you..don't know if you can make it next Sat..hope you will still be in town, would be fun...have a safe flight

svllee said...

Ok for following Saturday also. Thanks for telling me! And paying first. Way so fast !appreciate it.

Me... Only Better said...

You are welcome Steven..i do my banking online..was in anyway...so bayar terus...heh heh

svllee said...

That's gallons of teh tarek I owe you..!

Zawi said...

Steven,
A Rolleiflex will never die! Wonder if the films are still being made for them. I remember using Microdol X to develop the 120 mm film during my school days. Used to blow up the pictures by laying the photographic papers on the floor to get the right size exposure.

svllee said...

Hi Pak Zawi, so you have spent time in the darkroom, that is such an invaluable experience I think. Isn't it still magical to see the image appear on the photographic paper in developer! I use Agfa Rodinol mainly for my b&w films. Hope you and your family are well.

CindyC said...

ITS NOT FUN AND ITS NOT FAIR AT FUNFAIR
cuz i never win at funfairs boohoo :P

svllee said...

Hey Cindy, thought you are at work! Day off is it? Did you go to the Bon Udori event?Lets see some pics?