Seeing The World Through My Yashica TLR

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 in Photography | 5 Comments

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

Let me tell you a secret.

I am terrible with cameras.

I can take pictures, I don’t mean that. I mean the technical part, the machine part– I don’t find it intuitive. Perhaps it’s part of the reason I never felt the need to switch over to digital– there was enough to still figure out on my analogue machines.

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

At the beginning of the year, I received a beautiful gift: a Yashica MAT 124G twin lens reflex camera from the ’70’s. I’d been swooning over these TLR cameras for a while, and the popularity of Vivian Maier and her stylish self-portraits made them even more appealing. I was eager to try a film camera that I wouldn’t have to hold up to my face, a camera that would force me to capture the world with a new tool.

But, much like my early Holga struggles, it took a little while to learn how this baby worked.

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

In what’s becoming an annoying trend, the first few rolls didn’t develop at all. I would put it away for a month in frustration, before digging it out to try it again. I took deliberate pictures, trying to learn which knobs controlled what and how to best frame the shot. The image in the Yashica’s viewfinder is reversed, so when I move the camera to the left, the image moves to the right.

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

TLRs use medium format 120 film, much like my Holga– this means that the negatives are larger (allowing for greater clarity) and the prints are square. Medium format film is the original analogue Instagram, no filter required. Each roll only contains twelve frames, so I tend to be pickier about which photos I shoot. This also makes the stakes higher—I don’t want to waste my already limited frames.

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

Because the camera isn’t held in front of my face, it allows me to be slightly more subtle when taking pictures. I get awfully shy about taking pictures of people—this is an ongoing struggle for me—so I’m hoping to use the Yashica to push myself, to get closer. A lot of people don’t even realize it’s a camera. Those who do, though, are immediately enthusiastic—so many people have approached me and started conversations when they see the Yashica around my neck.

Yashica TLR

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

The second time I went to the Sutro Baths, a guy approached us to chatter on about the Yashica, ignoring the other two or three cameras we were lugging around. I love that the camera itself can be a way to begin a conversation, and I have learned that there are an awful lot of analogue camera and TLR enthusiasts lurking around (especially in San Francisco).

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

I’m still playing with this machine. These pictures are just the beginning of my Yashica TLR journey. But figuring out how a camera works is always worth it, especially when you end up with such nice photographs at the end.

Yashica TLR Mat G 124

5 Comments

  1. Lisa
    February 4, 2015

    I am so jealous! I have been drooling over medium format cameras for forever – maybe I should just take the plunge and get one …

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      February 4, 2015

      DO IT! I would love to see the pictures you’d take. This is my second medium format camera (with the Holga), but they are such different beasts!

      Reply
  2. Emilie
    February 5, 2015

    Nice! Did you have that one at camel wrestling?

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      February 5, 2015

      No, I didn’t! I don’t travel with it often because it’s heavy and awkward-shaped for my bag, though I’d like to take it more often. For now, it’s for wandering the streets of Istanbul :-)

      Reply
  3. Lisa Eldridge
    February 5, 2015

    Great stuff. What a wonderful adventure on so many fronts. :)

    Reply

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