The first week of 2023 started off great. One of my friends arranged for us to visit the OLT Osijek factory, either owned in part or rented by someone—we weren’t exactly sure. The owner allowed us to enter and capture as many photos as we wanted. OLT Osijek, once a major factory in the city, now stands in ruins. Documenting the factory before its inevitable demolition has been a top priority for me, and I have found that film photography is the best way to achieve this.
Equipped with my Fuji GSW690iii and Nikon L35AF, I encountered a minor hiccup just before entering the factory. The battery door of my Nikon didn’t close properly, leaving me with only one working camera—the Fuji GSW690. Fortunately, everything went smoothly with the Fuji. I loaded several rolls of film, including Kodak Portra 160 and Ilford HP5.
With a substantial collection of film rolls, I sent them to my favorite lab in Europe, Carmencita Film Lab. Thankfully, all the film from the factory photoshoot turned out great. This has been a long-standing project for me, documenting the factory’s decaying beauty before any government intervention alters its fate and leads to its demolition.
Yes, you’re seeing it right. I finally acquired a Pentax 6×7 MLU with two lenses last February. One was a 75mm shift lens, and the other was a 45mm. I had been yearning for the 6×7 format since I began my film photography journey. However, it all came at a hefty price. Unfortunately, in the first few months, this camera spent time in the repair shop due to multiple issues.
The first problem I noticed after purchasing it was that the built-in meter was not working properly. After cleaning some contacts and following advice from old forum posts, I was finally able to get the needle working. The second issue, and the one I truly regret, was that I never properly tested the camera before my trip to New York. Before my journey, I had only tested it with two rolls, and everything seemed fine. However, the problem occurred when I shot 15 rolls during my trip. Approximately half of them turned out unusable or half-frame exposed.
What happened? The camera had an issue with the shutter closing at 1/500 and 1/1000. Since I had many sunny days and needed to use faster shutter speeds, most of my pictures came out blank or half-frame exposed. Thankfully, the gentleman who repairs old cameras in Dublin, Ireland, was able to fix it for a fair price.
New York Chronicles
My dream trip to New York finally occurred. While it may sound cliché, almost everything culturally significant in this city has inspired who I am today. From art to music to food, my personality was shaped by the vibrant atmosphere. During this trip, I carried a Canon EOS 30V, Pentax 67, and a Canon 514XL-S – Super 8mm camera. Just before departing, I bought various film stocks from a local shop called John Gunn. The plan was to capture specific shots with the Pentax 67, take tourist photos with the Canon EOS 30V, and use the Super 8mm, which I haven’t in the end.
As mentioned in the previous sub-heading regarding the Pentax 67, half of the photos were not exposed due to an issue with the shutter curtain. I also experimented with a new service from Silbersalz, where they cross-process C41 to ECN2. Unfortunately, this process resulted in at least 1 to 2 stops of underexposure. Despite never having issues with metering, regrettably, 90% of my photos turned out underexposed. However, I’ve learned valuable lessons in handling cross-process situations. Yet, nothing is truly lost because I gained new insights, and the quality of Silbersalz scans, albeit at a higher price, never disappoints.
In terms of the photos I took, I am genuinely pleased. Some were meticulously planned before my trip, while others were spontaneous captures during my strolls around the city. I visited iconic spots where the Ramones hung out, Tom’s Restaurant featured in Seinfeld’s intro, the Chelsea Hotel associated with Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, and Leonard Cohen‘s ’60s apartment. From the bustling Chinatown to Midtown, the collection includes many photos contributing to New York’s rich history and culture. Oh, and due to time constraints, I didn’t manage to shoot any Super 8mm in New York.
Failed Book Project: Train Stations
Anyone who knows me will tell you that my favorite type of transportation is trains. With a love for trains, I became enamored with old train stations around Europe, especially in my region. This led to the idea for a film photography book. I thought to myself, since someone has already created this type of project, and my country has beautiful old train stations, why not me? I created a Google spreadsheet and started marking locations. After finishing the planning for the journey, my two brothers and I went on a trip around Slavonia.
Our first stop was in a small town called Bizovac. From the moment I took my camera out of my bag, the workers asked me if I had permission to shoot, but their tone seemed joking. Thinking they were jesting, we proceeded without any issues. Of course, at every other train station, we were asked for permission to photograph, without any explanation. However, to be honest, none gave us a hard time until the last train station in Velika. The worker there was suspicious of what we were doing. I explained that I’m a film photographer who appreciates old buildings and likes to take photos on film. He said it was fine to take photos, but only if I didn’t use them for commercial purposes. He mentioned that, according to the law, taking photos of governmental buildings could pose a threat to national security.
Unfortunately, after the last train station, I decided to scrap this project. Nonetheless, we captured good photos on this trip. Check them out below.
As we were approaching the end of the summer, a few significant events occurred. My hometown and the surrounding areas experienced a massive flood. One day, I went with my brother and took some photos of the flooding. Another event I captured was the demolition of the sugar refinery in my neighborhood. I’m glad I documented this because that factory was a part of my childhood. Every time the smell emanated from the factory, you knew that autumn had arrived. Nowadays, kids will never experience what my generation and older ones did every autumn. I also took multiple photos on slide film with a 6×7 format, and I must say I’m very pleased with how they turned out.
Upon returning to Ireland, I sent all my exposed film to my favorite film lab in Europe, called Carmencita Film Lab. The results never disappoint; you must try them if you can. After that, I went quiet with film photography, and on some occasions, I brought my Nikon L35AF to parties. Additionally, during bike rides on good sunny days, I brought my Fuji GS645S to capture some photos on slide film. I needed a small break from taking photos after capturing so many in the summertime and early spring.
What are the plans for 2024?
The goal for 2024 is to finally start working on a photobook, and yes, it won’t be something that I will need to scrap in the end. Currently, I can’t say anything about the photobook, but when the right time comes, I will start posting updates here. The second goal is to shoot more photos this year. I’ve noticed that every year that passes, I’m shooting less and less on film. Film photography, in general, keeps me active and mentally healthy. The process of shooting with film cameras makes me happy, which is why film photography is one of my top priorities for this year.
In addition, I aspire to commence the printing of my photos. I have many outstanding shots that have never been printed, and it’s regrettable that I haven’t done so thus far. Unfortunately, I did not prioritize this, but I plan to change that this year. Finally, I am keen on exploring new photography techniques and styles to enhance my creative repertoire.
As a new year dawns, I like to take a moment and look back at what went well and what didn’t in the previous year. 2023 was a rollercoaster for me as a film photographer. There were some really great moments, like coming up with an idea for a photobook and planning it out. But, you know how life goes, there were also some tough times. I was all excited, taking photos with my Pentax 67 for the photobook, and then suddenly, I was told I couldn’t because of some rules. That’s just life throwing curveballs at you.
But hey, it wasn’t all bad! I had some amazing experiences, like visiting New York and capturing its essence through my lens. And even though my dream of preserving train stations didn’t quite work out, I managed to document them before they got changed or torn down.
Now, as we step into a new year, I’m ready for whatever comes my way. The ups and downs of the past are like lessons pushing me forward. Here’s to hoping we all reach our goals and dreams. Let’s keep moving ahead, capturing new stories, taking new photos, and embracing the spirit of life’s fleeting moments. Cheers to the adventures that lie ahead!