Swimmers Club

24th September 2016

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Mamiya 645 waistlevel viewfinder

Mamiya 645

SevenUp


Factfile

Who: Andrew Miller
Where: Columbus, Ohio, USA
What: Writer


Andrew Miller is the author of If Only The Names Were Changed (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). He’s feeling pretty self-conscious about what he’s into as his mom only gave him 4 out of 5 stars for his debut effort, so please do your best to stifle any laughter before leaving the room.

Here are his SevenUp choices...

The Mamiya 645 film camera I’ve been shooting with, and more broadly the analog mechanisms of the pre-digital era – particularly the 60s and 70s – helps keep me grounded to some sort of reality. I was inspired to get back into it by writer and photographer Eduardo Pavez Goye (https://www.youtube.com/user/ProfetaParanoia/featured).

Mamiya released the 645in 1975 as a less expensive and more walkabout friendly version of their professional line RB67 series medium format system camera. Whereas the RB67 shot at 6x7 format allowing for 10 images per roll of 120-film, the 645 will shoot 15 images per roll at 6x4.5 format.

Each roll of black & white film costs about $4.50 at my local shop. Each roll of film takes me about 1-hour start-to-finish to process at home, including scanning to get them into my computer for sharing, printing, and archiving. The process is by no means a simplification over our new digital world nor separation from it. In fact it is rather cumbersome and time consuming.

Investing in the effort forces both intention and attention. Every step is a manual process. Choosing ISO/ASA based on the film, no changing up mid-shoot. Using Sunny-16 to judge aperture and shutter speed. Selecting every shot based on whether I can capture it correctly within the limitations of the 645, the film, and my skill.

Having grown up with underwhelming means, I’d learned how to shoot using a Kodak Instamatic 110 pocket camera. Flash Cubes, those 4-square disposable bulbs, were a luxury I could sometimes afford but even if I used them they produced a harsh photo that only Terry Richardson seems to have figured out how to make handsome.

Developing the film requires getting it correctly loaded onto the canister reel in absolute dark, doing it all by feel, then precisely timing the chemicals and agitation. Most often I shoot 400 ISO Ilford 5+ requiring 6’30” in the developer with 10 seconds of agitation per minute. Stop bath in cold water. Fixer for another 5’ before the final rinse.

Tactile and well timed machinations hold me in the present moment, which is a place my bi-polar mind rarely lets me stay. Like riding my old sidecar motorbike, or rebuilding a vintage Miniengine, mechanical devices are pleasing to me because they are used and repaired with very specific processes. Even though these processes are sometimes complex they have very little variance to them and eventually become rote, part of my muscle memory, as if I am an extension of them.

Being held in the present, physical world provides me with the root experiences I need to develop my creative non-fiction pieces which tend to expand beyond the realm of fact or reality as they fall out upon my digital documents, Facebook posts, etc.

The digital world is my more bi-polar future/past self, my imagination forcing itself upon the world.