Thursday, February 23, 2012

For Me, the Ultimate PRT

A few days ago, I wrote an update about something I call Photographic Regression Therapy, or PRT. That update talked about the current craze -- if it is a craze -- of photographers using cameras, iPhones, or techniques designed to deliver or render a low-fi, "back in the day," film-look to their photos. Sometimes, they do it with modern digital devices. Other times, they do in the same ways and with the same gear that was used back then. Still other times, perhaps most often, they accomplish it utilizing digital post-processing techniques.

I got the idea to write about PRT after purchasing a vintage rangefinder camera I spotted in a Craigslist ad, coupled with a few realizations, trend-like realizations, I've been watching going on in the photographic communities on Twitter and on photo forums and elsewhere.

Last night, I won a camera in an eBay auction. Personally, for me, this particular camera represents the absolute ultimate in Photographic Regression Therapy.

My winning bid was $23.06. I was prepared to pay more. Actually, a fair amount more! It wasn't that this particular camera is worth more. It's not. It was simply about something near-and-dear to my heart. The camera I won, a vintage, 1960s, Yashica Penta J SLR, was the camera that began my life-long love affair with photography.

On my 13th birthday, my Dad gave me my first camera: a Yashica Penta J. I wrote a chapter about this life-altering event in my e-book, Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography. The chapter talked about how that camera set me on the path of photography as a hobby and, later, a career. The chapter doesn't merely record the event marked by receiving a camera as a gift on my 13th birthday, but how it set the course for much of my photographic life by its lack of technology -- by today's standards or even standards of not too many years after its release -- and its all-manual functionality. In more than a few ways, that old Yashica SLR influenced my approach to photography throughout my life, right up till present day.

My Dad, Luigi, who many called "Big Lou" and not because he was fat, was a bartender back then. As such, he interacted with all sorts of people in the North Eastern area of New Jersey where I grew up... if you get my drift.

It didn't matter to me that my new camera probably fell off a truck and somehow ended up in my father's possession and then mine. All that mattered was I had this really cool camera which I took to like a duck to water. I don't know what happened to that first camera of mine. It was lost somewhere along life's way. But as I've recently become more and more aware of my need to engage in some PRT, I knew I wanted to replace it. And now I have.

For quite a while, I've been searching, mostly on eBay, for a replacement for my first camera: A working replacement. I didn't have much luck. Then, a few days ago, I tried altering my search words by omitting the "J" from "Yashica Penta J." Bingo! I found three of them.

One of them looked good cosmetically but wasn't in working condition. (Yet the seller wanted a $68 "Buy It Now" price for it.) Another, which the seller claimed was in working condition, looked like it had plenty of grime, rust, and dirt on it... altho the starting bid was cheap. Like ninety-nine cents cheap. The third one, however, caught my eye. The seller said it was fully-functional, that he was the original buyer in the early-60s (the camera was produced between 1961 and 1964) and that he recently pulled it out of a box that he had stored in a closet. The listing for this Yashica Penta J included the camera body, the original, Auto Yashinon, 50mm, f/2, M42-mount lens, the snap-on, analog, mechanical, exposure meter, and the original leather case. Starting bid was $15. I put the camera on my "Watch List."

Throughout the week it was listed no one placed a bid on it. That is, until the last day of the auction. When I spotted an opening bid, I checked the bidder's bid history. Everything this person had bid on, according to his or her history, was a vintage camera. The bidder was either a collector or a re-seller. I responded by placing a maximum bid that was considerably more than what the camera is worth. After all, I was being motivated by sentimentality. The actual worth of the camera didn't much matter to me. I simply wanted it for personal reasons and I'd be willing to pay more for it than what it is worth. That meant if the other buyer is a re-seller, there would be no profit left in it nor would outbidding me be considered anything close to a good deal.

Turned out I was right. The other bidder took me up to a whopping $23.06 and gave up. (I was prepared to pay quite a few times more than that much.)

I'm very excited about winning this replacement of my very first, 35mm, SLR camera! Can't wait till it gets here! I plan to shoot with it, assuming everything works properly, and not simply display it on a shelf or elsewhere. I might even purchase more glass for it: Probably a 28mm wide angle lens and perhaps a 135mm medium telephoto for shooting some portraits. There's plenty of all-manual glass listed on eBay that is of the M42, screw-mount variety. I might even limit my purchases to Yashica Auto Yashinon glass only. I'm not, as a rule, a purist. But I might become one in terms of this particular camera.

Like I said, for me this will be my ultimate PRT!

The pretty girl at the top is Jenna.


WestCoastJim said...

You weirdo!
Now I'm supposed to look for a damn Praktica??? 42mm pre-Pentax screw mount and all??? Aaack!

jimmyd said...


PhotoGord said...

That was my thought also! I've kept all of my cameras. From my first rangefinder to all my DSLRs. All except one - the first SLR I owned.

I purchased in the early 7o's a black Konica Autoreflex T3. It was my workhorse. Using the money I earned from my $1.35/hr part-time job while I was in school I added two additional lenes to my kit. I loved that camera more than some of the girls I dated.

In the 80's I sold it to purchase a Canon AE1. To this day I regret selling that camera. So many great photos were taken with it. And it taught me the basics of what would become my career in photography.

Jimmy, your acrticle has pulled my heart strings harder. I too have had a nostalgic feeling, much like for a first love.

So it's to eBay for me also. I just hope I am as fortunate as you to find one in as good condition as the one I let go.