every camera i own: the smena 8m

The Smena 8m doesn’t get the Lomographic love that the company showers upon its line of overpriced Holgas and neverending series of limited edition Diana replicas (n.b., and if anybody’s interested in the Meg White edition Diana kit, ping me). But this modest camera has a level of control not found in most plastic cameras: adjustable shutter speed (from B to 250) and aperture (from f4 to f16) in a 40mm lens. You even cock the shutter to snap a picture. It’s not the most well-built picture-making machine ever made, but I’d sure trust it to rattle around my bag with impunity more than the flimsy Diana+. The trouble for me is the range focussing, which I’ll have to get the hang of by the time I get through all my cameras, at least a few more of which will require me to guesstimate what’s in focus.

I think it cost me ten bucks in the early 00’s. When I pulled it out of one of the several plastic storage bins that hold many of my cameras, it was loaded with Elite Chrome that had expired more than ten years ago – the same stock that was in the PhotoBlaster, which if you’ll recall turned out completely magenta. I’ll have that roll processed later, but in meantime I re-loaded it with a roll of Kodak Gold 100 that had only expired in 2002. This held up much better. Though there’s still the range-focus issue.

I shot most of a 24-exposure roll on a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, which has a place in jazz lore as the place where tenor sax legend Sonny Rollins retreated – frustrated by where his music wasn’t going – and where he practiced during his time away from the jazz scene in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The comeback album released when he returned to jazz was in fact called The Bridge. I wonder if he ever goes back there.

As often as I run away to New York this trip marked a couple of firsts for me – my first time walking the Williamsburg Bridge, and my first visit to the Village Vanguard, where so many jazz legends have performed: Rollins, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, just to name three who recorded landmark albums on the premises. The headliner last weekend was drummer Paul Motian, part of one of the great piano trios. And it was in that space fifty years ago that Motian joined  pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro to record one of my favorite jazz albums. I got a little misty eyed when it occurred to me that I was seeing Motian on the same stage where this was recorded:

Motian, who turns 80 at the end of March, is the last surviving member of that trio. Evans passed in 1980 at a relatively young age, having just turned 51. LaFaro, whose exquisite bass helps make the Village Vanguard sessions so achingly beautiful, died in a car crash ten days after recording this. He was 25.

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