Winter sunset reflected in a Berlin window, shot on Fuji Superia 400
If film photography had a golden age, then it was probably the 1970s. Camera manufacturers turned out model after model of tough, simple, robust cameras big on metal and short on flimsy plastic. It was the era of the Nikon F, which had been tested under combat conditions in Vietnam and Leica’s classic Leicaflex SL; Olympus’ classic OM range and the Pentax Spotmatic. Cameras were tough, chunk and relatively expensive, expected to work in all but the most adverse conditions.
There were plenty of other manufacturers making cameras during this time – Edixa and Voigtlander in West Germany, Praktica and Exakta in East Germany, KMZ in the Soviet Union and Fujica, Ricoh and Chinon in Japan, to name but a few. What a lot of these camera manufacturers had in common was their use of the M42 lens mount, also known as the Universal Screw Mount.
Camera and lens manufacturers didn’t have to pay licences to use the fitting (unlike, say, someone wanting to make lenses for a Nikon camera) so for most of the 70s, camera shop shelves were filled with screw-mount cameras. One of the very best of them was the Chinon Memotron.
I first met Calexico on a Friday afternoon in Brixton, south London, in the year 2000. They were in town to promote their third album – a record of mariachi-tinged songs with a dusty, cinematic sweep – called ‘Hot Rail’. Since then, I’ve become a massive fan of their music, and been lucky enough to shoot them at gigs and soundchecks over the intervening year – including a gig in my old hometown of Wellington, New Zealand.
Calexico’s music is a rich mix, taking cues from the Mexican music which lies just over the Arizona border, along with hints of jazz, soundtrack, indie rock and country. This blend is in keeping with the band’s diverse background – singer Joey Burns hails from Montreal, drummer John Convertino is from New York, slide guitarist Paul Niehaus calls Nashville home and multi-instrumentalist Martin Wenk is from Germany.
Calexico may not tour quite as relentlessly as they did at the turn of the century, but they’re still releasing records and hitting the road as much as they can. Their most recent album, the New Orleans-recorded ‘Algiers’, came out last year, and the band have been touring in short, sharp bursts since. They hail from Tucson, Arizona, but their fanbase is spread far and wide across the globe – they’re big in France and Germany, live favourites in New Zealand, chart-toppers in Greece and still a big draw in the UK.
Olympus XA, with its equally compact flash (Pic: Dave Fayram)
Cameras don’t come much smaller than the Olympus XA. A compact camera with a clamshell sliding door, this little rangefinder was sold on the strengths of its pocketable size. But its strengths didn’t end there.
Designed by Olympus’s legendary Yoshihisa Maitani and released in 1979, the XA packed a lot of punch for a camera small enough to stuff in your pocket. No Lomo-style zone-focusing here – the XA was a rangefinder like it’s bigger, bulkier cousins such as the Leica and the Contax, but a fraction of the size. The Zuiko lens contained in the XA’s tiny frame was sharp and contrasty (Olympus had an enviable reputation for its lenses thanks to the OM range of SLRs and the Olympus Trip compact).
The XA quickly became a favourite with street photographers – the camera’s tiny size makes it look like a tourist’s happy snapper, rather than something a serious photographer would use; perfect for grabbing shots without anyone noticing.
Brighton is one of Britain’s best-loved holiday spots; a getaway for thousands every time the British sun peeks from behind the clouds.
Come here on a sunny Saturday and it’s chock-full from the moment you get off the train, the crowds soaking up the sun from any spare patch of the pebbly beach, ice-cream vans lurking at every corner, and the West Pier sitting forlornly like the skeleton of some crashed steampunk spaceship.
It’s a city with a rich photographic history too, stretching all the way back to Victoria times. Its parade of imposing hotels and strip of pebbly pleasure beach have featured in thousands of historic photos (check out one such archive here). Back when the average working family couldn’t afford the luxury of a camera, ‘walking photographers’ took pics for holidaymakers – and in the 60s press photographers turned up in the hope of capturing the Mods vs Rockers fisticuffs which so shocked respectable Britain.
Budva, one of Montengro’s most photogenic towns
Montenegro is one of Europe’s most scenic spots; a little slice of the former Yugoslavia blessed with stunning coastline.
It was a playground of the rich and famous during the 1950s and 60s but suffered a huge slump because of the civil war of the 1990s. Only since independence in 2006 has the country’s tourism industry really got into gear.
Montenegro is a photographer’s paradise. There’s rugged coastline – including fjords that wouldn’t look out of place in Norway – next to the crumbling ruins of old Venetian fortresses, and lush green forests leading it imposing mountain ranges. The island of Sveti Stefan, which was once a fishing village but is now a high-end resort. Whether you’re shooting film or digital, you’ll be hard-pressed to capture all of what this country has to offer.