After a few years of relative distance, in 2012 I went again on a camera-collecting spree. Recently I got an Asahi/Pentax Spotmatic SP from the 1960s, along with an East German 50mm Carl Zeiss clone which might be the best lens I've got (testing on my DSLR suggests so!). I exposed a couple of rolls in it, and I sure liked the results.
Here are a few photos taken around Rem Koolhaas' concert hall. These are somewhat touristy, but what the hell — I like them. Nostalgia for the years of public money spent on lavish construction projects?
Taken with my Voigtlander Bessa-L and an adapted Tamron 28mm lens that makes the camera look quite badass.
My mind was somewhere else at the end of the roll of so I briefly opened the camera before rewinding, ruining some of the exposures. Oops, my bad. Anyway, when I took the film to the lab I specifically requested that they digitize every single exposure, no matter how awful it looked. And as (unfortunately) expected, they instead decided to curate my own photos for me, so I had to digitize some of the damage I found interesting (examples one and two) using my own terrible flatbed scanner. Next time I'll take my business elsewhere.
I rarely mention things about my hometown, even though I sometimes post planimetric pictures of its run-down façades. However, this 1945 photo by Helga Glassner did somehow capture my interest. In it you can see the southmost part of Avenida dos Aliados and the Praça da Liberdade at its end, and beyond that — at the top right of the picture — it seems the Douro river can be seen. And that strikes me as odd. Even though the picture seems taken from the clock tower of the City Hall building at the north end of Aliados, the building was still under construction in 1945. Was it taken from a crane, perhaps?
Having my studio in a building located in the vicinity, I find it nice to remember the time, not long ago, when there were trees and a bit of gardening in Aliados, instead of just the drab granite pavement that greets me as I leave the subway station every day. Pedro Quintas
More photos taken with the Voigtlander Bessa-L, this time without the faux black & white.
This photo makes perfectly clear how the Industar lens, made before advanced optical coatings were commonplace, is soft: the diffusion in the edges around the sky isn't due to any kind of post-production effect. The soviet lens does hold very well in the other pictures, though.
Recently I bought a Voigtlander Bessa-L camera body, getting it for quite cheap at a used cameras shop here in Porto. I found it the kind of incredibly well-made object I had to own, but of course a camera body is useless without a lens, so I had to find one. Voigtlander has incredible wide-angle lenses for it, but at more than $500 that's more than I ever paid for one, even for my frequent use Canon DSLRs. I scoured eBay for cheap compatible Soviet lenses, and found a mint Industar-61 LD for $30. At 55mm, it's perhaps too narrow-angle for use with a finderless camera, but luckly I have the viewfinder from my Yashica Electro35 kit, with 38 and 58mm guides, so the final setup works like a charm, even if it looks like a retro mutant camera.
Since M39 (or LTM — Leica Thread Mount) lenses are incredibly expensive unless you go for the Soviet stuff, I'll also want to try a couple of M42 lenses I own, and perhaps stay on the lookout for a M42 wide-angle. If you plan on doing the same, beware though: you need a real M42 to M39 adapter, not the cheap stuff sold in kilograms on eBay. Since M42s are SLR lenses, in order to focus properly (or at all!) they need to sit much farther from the Bessa-L body than where a simple adapter would place them. The proper adapters will cost around $50 and are rare so you'll need to Google for them — just confirm they're around 2cm thick in order to compensate for the flange distance!
The Bessa-L having no finder means you have absolutely no way to focus other than estimating distances and dialing those in — which is yet another good reason to use a wide-angle lens. As I took my camera for a test walk I had to make do with what I had, though: an overcast day and the slow 100 ISO film (so I couldn't stop down the aperture much) made things even more difficult. Anyway, I'm pleased with the first results. The lens seems a bit soft but still better than expected considering how cheap it was, and the exposure metering seems almost as accurate as its reigning champion in my collection — the Electro35, with its analog rather than discrete shutter speeds (a feature which will always be on top of my digital camera wishlist). And I'm especially pleased I didn't make many focusing mistakes.
The Bessa-L is becoming my favourite film camera from my colection, even if using it is highly technical: that means serendipity is strong with this one.
“Occupy Es.col.a — You Can’t Evict an Idea” by Gui Castro Felga.
Today is a bad day to be a citizen of Porto. Heavily armed police forces forcefully evicted Es.col.a (‘School’), a previously abandoned and derelict midtown elementary school that for the last year has been successfully occupied and served as an impromptu community center for the Fontinha neighbourhood, in an old and impoverished part of Porto. Truth be told, I only visited once, and ended up spending a pleasant afternoon in the schoolyard, helping with the sorting and testing of old computers that had been donated, so that a public computer center could be set up. I did enjoy thinking such a thing could exist and work out.
City officials, of course, always maintained such an occupation was illegal, even going as far as making the absurd claim the school was “private City property”. In fact, the legality of the occupation is highly contentious, as it is public property (so it’s not the same as occupying one’s house, at all), and what’s intolerable is City Hall’s claim, which is, in my humble opinion, such a serious misinterpretation of what ‘City property’ means that it should be grounds for immediate resignation (if our beancounter of a president Rui Rio and their lot had any shame, that is). The truth is, City Hall — for eleven years in the hands of right-wing conservatives — just can’t allow a successful community occupation to exist. They just couldn’t handle the recent good press about Es.col.a, as the whole concept of communities making stuff is against the Coalition’s political dogma. They’ll rather leave the School unoccupied and falling to pieces for decades — something certainy speeded up by today’s wanton destruction perpertrated by the police and city firemen (a flourish of Farenheit 451 WTF-ness). Or perhaps they’ll open it once a year, allowing Time Out Magazine or some other brand to throw a lavish party there without having to clean up afterwards — and for that, there will be talk of ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepeneurship’, the same vocabulary so throughly denied whenever poorer people are in charge.
In a decent democracy, City Hall, Police and Fire Brigade officials would resign or be impeached because of their willing destruction of public property. In a liberal kleptocracy, empoverished people who see their safety nets sacrificed every day in the altars of Free Market just try to set themselves on fire.
No matter how often Porto gets voted Best European Destination by tourists who want a quick escape to a place with cheap food, drinks, and a taste of Southern European servilitude towards their economic overlords (of course, the local hostel economic bubble and the fact that cheap Ryanair flights arrive at an airport which is actually pretty close to its destination city might also have something to do with it), the city's true charm lies in the bits and pieces that so far have defied gentrification.