The Magic Box

A voice at the other end of the line asks me: “What kind of camera do you use?”.

It takes me some seconds to crack the thick Thai accent: “A Leica M6”, I answer proudly.

Here I am, trying to get hold of some films in Bangkok, I will be there for some hours on my way back to Kabul.

The shop-keeper is obviously asking me this question just because he wants to make sure he will deliver the right kind of films, he’s not really interested on my tastes about cameras.

Film rolls are more and more difficult to find, and more and more expensive.

Back in Kabul it takes me two solid days of work to develop 20 films, two at a time. Film photography works definitely at a different pace. Scanning everything will take the same amount of time.

“Why are you still working with film?”, asks my girlfriend. She’s amazed by the amount of work that goes in every single picture.

I honestly miss the good old days in NY: I used to slip my negatives with the ones of the famous photographers when I was making coffee at Magnum Photos. They would come back, neatly developed, in a brown cardboard box, together with the contact sheets – for free.

135 Black and white film photography is slower, more expensive and the quality of the images is probably worse than what you could get with digital back and white. There is no sense to it.

A great and wise photographer once told me: “There is no difference between analogic and digital, if you are a shitty photographer you will stay so”.

It’s true, at the end of the day it’s about what a poem makes us feel like, and not about the pen that has been used to write it.

“Click”

The smooth sound of the shutter of an M6. The world looks amazing through it: orderly and bright.

I smoke a cigarette in the bathroom while the fixer does its job in the dark depth of the tank.

The job is done; if I made some mistakes with the developer there is not much I can do anymore.

And I still cannot see the images. They will remain hidden in the darkness for some more minutes.

Photography is about what we cannot see. Images have always something mysterious to them, old family pictures as documents of historical events. There is something magic about the present becoming memory in front of our eyes.

The right images are born out of concentration and empathy, but more than anything else, out of enjoyment. If you are having fun you will take good pictures, there is no other way. It has to come easy.

We should keep that sense of joy, of discovery, of mystery and playfulness.

I felt it first when I was rolling down that road, early in the morning, when the Mexican mist was barely showing the green mountains, and I will try to keep it with me.

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