Fits and Starts and California Dreaming

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 in Photography, USA | 6 Comments

soviet start camera california dreaming

When I bought my glorious and problematic KMZ Start camera in Prague, there was only one visible problem with it: the film counter was broken.

The film counter lets you know how many frames have advanced, so photographers can keep track of how many pictures are left on the roll. It’s very useful, but ultimately doesn’t affect how the pictures themselves come out. I decided that the broken film counter was a minor enough flaw that I could live with it—I’d just have to keep count.

Heh.

soviet start camera california dreaming

In my last post about my Start, I mentioned that the camera had completely jammed over the summer. Without much warning, it apparently started working again in the fall and I took it to shoot around Istanbul. When the film stopped advancing again, I figured that the roll was finally finished.

There was a bit of an issue with this– the film, apparently, had disconnected from the spool, so I couldn’t wind it in with the camera or manually in the dark; I brought it to my lab and they transferred it out of the camera for me. I was surprised to see that the roll of Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 I was shooting was only 24 frames and not 36; I’d forgotten in the months that the camera had spent jammed and unused.

When I got the film back, a mystery was solved.

soviet start camera california dreaming

All the pictures on the roll were from California. Not one from Istanbul.

This means that when the camera was “jammed” over the summer, it wasn’t jammed at all—the roll was finished.

soviet start camera california dreaming

This is the second time I’ve made this mistake. I haven’t been counting my frames. In my defense, the camera does legitimately jam frequently, and in order to unjam it, I take a few frames blind—and those count, of course, but mentally I never mark them, since I can’t see what I’m shooting. Also, the camera often feels like it’s still advancing the frames when the roll is finished and I don’t understand how that’s possible—camera friends, if you have any theories, I would love to hear them. I am glad that one of the major problems with the camera has turned out to be something so simple.

soviet start camera california dreaming

It is worth using this camera for the results it gives. This light-leaky roll of color film somehow perfectly captured the feel of my sun-drenched California summer, a summer of Linda Perhacs and lavender ice cream cones and palm trees and pink skies. I embrace the imperfections of film, because my photographs look like my nostalgia, the color of memories. I’ll stick with the Start when the results are such a goddamn dream. 

soviet start camera california dreaming

6 Comments

  1. Brenna
    February 24, 2015

    I love these photos – yes, keep using that camera!!

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      February 24, 2015

      Thank you Brenna… I will! And I will keep using color film too. Those light leaks!

      Reply
  2. Robert
    February 26, 2015

    Cool stuff.

    I agree, it’s great how the imperfections of film often translate the nebulosity of our memories.

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      March 7, 2015

      It’s one of my favorite things about shooting film!

      Reply
  3. Katie
    March 2, 2015

    When I feel that my film may be jammed, I usually rewind it before I take a blank shot, rewind again for another blank shot – so that essentially I only really waste one frame. To make sure your film is really advancing, your rewind knob should be turning with each advance. It might stay still for one or two frames but usually on the third advance it should be turning. :)

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      March 7, 2015

      That’s a good idea, Katie– I need to stop wasting frames! I will try this next time.

      Reply

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