Sunday, February 19, 2012

Photographic Regression Therapy

One definition of the word regression states: "A relapse to a less perfect or developed state." We see a lot of regression going on around us these days, from political, social, and religious views, to nostalgia for simpler times, right on to photography and the "older" look and feel of images we'd like to capture.

Photographic Regression Therapy, or PRT, is practiced by many photographers. There isn't, of course, a real and documented type of therapy called PRT -- leastwise, not one that I know of -- I just made that up. But I think it's a good way to describe something more than a few photographers are going through lately, myself included. For whatever reasons, many of us are relapsing to a less perfect or developed technological state, or the appearance of one, as it applies to photography.

Interestingly, some of this relapsing uses very developed technologies to achieve a regressive looking image. An iPhone equipped with Instagram is one example: iPhonography with Instagram uses a very modern and high-tech device to sometimes produce photo images that appear as if they were captured with less developed technologies. You know, like vintage, analog, low-fi, film cameras.

Personally, I haven't embraced the iPhone/Instagram craze. Shooting images with my iPhone simply doesn't appeal to me in big ways. That could change but, for now, that's how it is with me. Still, I practice PRT in other ways as many of you may also be doing.

Lately, quite a few photographers have become interested in shooting with Polaroid cameras. This trend is, in no small way, a result of the popularity of the the Impossible Project. It's also a good way to engage in PRT.

Lomography is another form of PRT. Originally, lomography was about using inexpensive vintage cameras, generally of Russian design and manufacture. Today, the term lomography has been extended to include cheap plastic cameras like the Holga and Diana to achieve it's distinctive low-fi results. If you regularly read this blog, you know I recently purchased a plastic Holga lens to mount on my Canon 5D. Using a Canon 5D certainly doesn't represent true PRT, it's quite a high-tech camera body after all, but slapping a Holga lens on it qualifies.

Yesterday, my PRT resulted in another acquisition: A late 60s/early 70s rangefinder camera.

I was perusing Craigslist when I spotted someone selling a couple of older film cameras. One of them was a Yashica Electro 35 GT. I called the seller, went to his house to look at his cameras, and purchased the Yashica rangefinder for $40. It included the camera with it's fixed 45mm lens, wide-angle and telephoto optical adapters, and an accessory-shoe-mounted viewfinder. Cosmetically, the camera is pristine. It looks as if it was barely used. I have no idea if it works because it had no battery in it. Originally, this camera used mercury batteries which have been illegal for some time now. I returned home, went on eBay, and ordered a battery adapter which permits using a more common battery that is still available.

What am I going to do with this camera? Other than snap some pictures with it, I have no idea. I didn't buy it with anything more specific in mind. It's simply a way to engage in a bit more PRT. Assuming the camera functions properly, I'll enjoy playing with it in a nostalgic sort of way. And that's why, I think, many other photographers engage in Photographic Regression Therapy, whether they're using an iPhone, a Polaroid camera, a lomo camera, or a vintage film camera: It's just plain fun and the results can be very rewarding in a creatively aesthetic sort of way.

The pretty girl at the top is another whose name I can't recall. (Click to enlarge.) I shot her in front of the plain, stuccoed, wall of a garage at a location house where my client was shooting a video production in an adjacent area of the property. The garage area was shaded so I used a 5' Photoflex Octodome for my main light, camera-right, plus a kicker off to the side, modified with a small umbrella, to mimic sunlight coming in from camera-left.


RandJ-Photo said...

Don't get me started. There are about a dozen medium format cameras in the consignment counter at my camera store. I look at each new addition to the collection and remember when I first heard and saw them. How I lusted time and again but you can only buy so many cameras when they're new.

But now they're used and relatively inexpensive. I hold them in my hands, adjust the knobs and fire a few frames.....

WestCoastJim said...

My very first "instant return mirror" was on a Yashica Pentamatic! Wish I had it. Why? No idea at all. I did keep a few Hassies, SInar P2s, Nikon F5s, Leica Ms and last model Pentax 6x7 IIs...
And have not touched a single one in years... YEARS!
Am I interested in PRT? Not one bit! Film is dead and who the heck cares? The Impossible Projct is a hoot, I'll grant you that. And I kept a few 'Roid backs...
The Howitzer 1D X and the goofy Fuji X PRO1 are exactly what I need to get my grins. And keep up with the phantom Joneses... And, WTF, they both have the stupid "X" in their names...

jimmyd said...

@WestCoastJim: What I neglected to write about in my article, leastwise write too much about, are photographers using digital to mimic an analog film look with their pics. IMO, that's also a form of PRT. In other words, you don't have to pick up your film cameras and start shooting with them again in order to engage in PRT. Something as simple as adding faux film grain to digital images can be PRT.

WestCoastJim said...

I have to agree. Somewhat proving your observation I did a studio shoot a couple of weeks ago where I had planned on a "period" film grain look after the digital capture work-flowed through Photoshop.
Looked like crap. We just stuck with the real thing. Digital.
All too weird for this (obvious) former film shooter.