The day I found the vintage camera I didn’t know anything about analogue photography.
Out shopping one Saturday in Glasgow’s west end, I spotted a little curiosity shop I’d never seen before. Intrigued, I entered the shop through thick purple curtains hanging on either side of the doorway, leading me through a dark vestibule before opening out into the shop proper. It put me in mind of Narnia as if I’d walked through the back of the wardrobe and into another world.
‘Can I help you?’
I hadn’t heard a bell ring, and couldn’t see anyone. The shop was still and silent and smelt of old books.
‘No. No thanks. I’m just…err.’
‘Don’t worry dear, look around as long as you wish.’
The voice, a man’s voice, was little more than a croak.
My eyes struggled to adjust to the dingy gloom inside and instinctively I stayed close to the entrance. Goose bumps popped up along my arms.
I took in the shapes and colours of the old-fashioned items, the books stacked on the floor resting on the worn carpet, the dressing table piled high with decorative hat boxes trimmed with old velvet, a valise, long-handled hair brushes and jewellery draped over the mirror. It was the kind of shop my mother would have adored.
After a few minutes I turned to leave, vowing to return another time and bring my mother along. Then I saw it, nestled between a bird-cage and some handbags: the camera. Japanese. I wondered what its story was and how it had ended up here, in this shop in Glasgow.
‘Still works, it does.’
The voice startled me for the second time. Where was this man?
I touched the chrome of the lenses, running my fingers over the different dials and screws. It still looked smart despite its age. I didn’t know anything about photography but I knew I had to have this vintage camera. I was drawn to it.
The man appeared at the same moment I reached my decision. He was old, older than I’d thought, maybe in his mid-80’s. He smiled at me but said nothing as he reached for the camera, put it neatly in its leather case, and began to wrap it in tissue paper.
I paid him in cash – the price tag said £20 – but I hadn’t even said I wanted to buy it. It was as if he knew. The bag he gave me was the same purple as the curtains, with the word ‘Debonair’ in gold lettering across the middle. Thanking the man I turned away, feeling his eyes on me as I left.
Elated with my impromptu purchase and dazzled by the bright sunlight outside, I headed home through the Botanic Gardens. I couldn’t wait to examine the vintage camera properly.
I flicked on the hall light – there were no windows in my hall and it was always dark, even on a summer’s day – and made to flip open the film hatch of the camera, expecting to find an empty void. Above me the light flickered and the bulb blew. Shit. That had given me a fright.
My fingers had already released the catch on the camera, and as I felt inside I realised a film was loaded. An actual film in the camera! It seemed like fate for the lightbulb to have blown just as I was opening the back. The film could have been ruined otherwise. Reluctantly I reminded myself that could already be the case.
With my imagination punching out all kinds of answers to what might be on the film my dreams that night were vivid and restless. A love affair? Naughty nudes? People I didn’t know? Places? Scenery? Whatever it was I knew I had to get the film developed as soon as I could. Maybe they could do it in an hour? Maybe I was getting carried away.
Tingles of excitement rippled through me as I went to get the camera.
Only it wasn’t there. I was sure I’d left it on the hall table, but it didn’t seem to be there. The bag was still there though. Debonair in gold typeface. I glanced to the front door. It was ajar. I ran to it, heard the echo of someone’s footsteps as they ran down the stairs.
This post is part of a link-up with my blog-buddy Karen Lynch of Leaf and Petal. She blogs about vintage, craft and nostalgia. Read Karen’s post inspired by the same image.