Global Recycling Day

Today is Global Recycling Day (18th March 2021 if you’re reading this on another day) and to commemorate it I have changed my logo to that of the Global Recycling Foundation logo, just for the day (although it could be the shape of things to come – but more about that another time). Here’s a screen grab of what it looks like in case you missed it:

Recycling is a tricky thing to manage as a photographer. In the old days a photographer would buy a camera and some lenses and be set for life – okay there was all that film and polaroid with its associated packaging; and the chemicals needed to process the film; and the travel to and from the lab to have the film processed; the paper and chemicals used for test prints.

My fabulous Mamiya RZ medium format film camera, which still gets the occasional outing.

Nowadays there’s much less use of chemicals and constant single use packaging so it must be much cleaner, right? Well not necessarily – there’s the constant upgrade path that seems to relentlessly empty out photographers bank accounts, as well as require endless manufacturing of electronic devices that are mostly made in the Far East and shipped around the globe. It’s easy to say just stick with the equipment that you already have, but in practice it’s not so straightforward, and I’m not just talking about gear envy and having to have the latest. Because digital cameras are now so intertwined with computers then often the need to upgrade a camera follows on from a computer upgrade, or a software upgrade. The reverse is also true where new cameras will also inevitably mean a software upgrade at the very least. It’s an endless cycle!

So what happens to all those no longer needed or compatible cameras? Well for me Ebay has always been a good source of finding a new owner, and I have managed to sell a number of still very capable cameras to new owners who have hopefully gone on to use them for a lot longer still. I also keep cameras of sentimental value; I have my own very first camera – a fine Russian machine called a Zenit. It is built like a tank and weighs similar! I also have my Dad’s very first camera, given to him by his parents for his 21st birthday over 60 years ago, and I used it as recently as 2018 and it turned out some decent results despite having to guess the focus distance and the exposure!

My very first camera – the fabulous Zenit EM – just don’t drop it on your toes!
My Dad’s 21st birthday present given to him by his parents in 1958 and still working today.
A woman and child seek refuge under a tree in Bushy Park in the rain, shot on my Dad’s 60 year old Werra 35 mm camera.

I am often asked by friends and family if their cupboards full of old cameras (usually a mixture of film and early digital cameras) are of any value, and usually the answer is none at all. Inevitably then they can end up being trashed and there is growing concern about the electronic waste being caused by all these new digital cameras. It’s a difficult problem and I certainly won’t claim to know the solution.

Some old film cameras have a charm to them that makes them reusable even after their photographic life has come to an end. Like most photographers I expect I have a number of old cameras as ornaments around the house.

Old cameras used as ornaments. The camera on the right still works, but the others are untested (at the moment!)
The Kodak Box Brownie, now repurposed as a lamp holder. Photo by Douglas Kurn

Despite the manufacturers tremendous promo photographs I doubt that my current camera will enjoy such an ornamental future…