In about 2012 I picked up a Yashica 635 from Ebay. I had no idea what I was getting myself into other than wanting to shoot like the legend Oli Sansom who had shared a fair amount of work captured on this model. Who the heck was Yashica? What was 120m film? Medium format? TLR? You get the point.
We had recently moved from Christchurch post birth of Thomas and post quakes. I had fallen for film in a mild but chaotic way and once the Yashica 635 arrived I remember sitting in our one bedroom hot box apartment mesmerised with what I had found. I had simply never seen such a beautiful camera and made in the 1950’s this thing was literally MINT.
Firing it up with some film black and white film felt right. Capturing the early years of my sons development and life soon followed. For the first year I had a friend with a scanner who was happy to leave it at the studio- and I began to learn more not just abut film- but also the art of scanning. Looking back I really did not learn to much other than auto scanning, but I had a good year. My friend then left Auckland with the scanner and I felt that even though film meant alot to me- it was not enough to invest $600 + in a scanner. Maybe 15 rolls of 120 film then found residency in my fridge and moved around with us until the inevtitable sale of the first camera which introduced me to the wonderful world of medium format photography.
A few weeks ago I started to finally develop the rolls which had been living in the fridge for 6 + years. This week when the remaining negatives made it home safely (they are developed in Wellington) I scanned the entire collection. Yeah film, you could say, now means a lot to me now, and I have invested in my scanner.
So realising just how special the Yashica 635 actually was to me- as I looked through some utterly stunning images shot in it, I felt a real sense of regret. I’ve never really seen cameras as-anything else other than tools- but the Yashica 635 was special. Understated perhaps- and a sense of relative complexity- but ultimately looking back a camera that produced unique images that to date i’ve never captured again.
Night after night I searched on Ebay and Trademe for the same model- and even though seemingly plentiful overseas- the price had tripled since I first looked at them. On many occasions through the lust of the unique images and sentimentality – I nearly pressed buy now. Well last week I finally saw a winner on Trademe and luckily with a buy now of just $200 and a few hours live- it was mine. But was is fungus ridden? Will it work? What’s the real condition?
After finishing up on the job I was shooting in AKL, my mate Wayne was kind enough to drive me over to check out and splash the cash. The seller Jonathan was super easy to deal with and after running pretty late that evening, also super chilled to allow me a late visit. Checking it over in his kitchen surrounded by stacked packing boxes in very poor light, I told him this very story- about how I found the same model camera and sold it. Also how I regretted passing it on. Looking at me he then asked if I lived in Parnell- to which I replied I used to – why?
“I think you sold the camera to me.” He said.
Holy shit. I had be reunited with my Yashica 635 and after high fiving (a safer bet than man hugging) I could not believe it. Images of my boys early years, friends in the city, some celebrity portraits, and a history of the very re introduction back into film was shot in this camera. Johnathon was on his way back home overseas- which makes our fateful reconnection even more special.
The story ends on this note. Before Johnathon took the camera away to shoot his own life back in 2016- I finished the roll which had bene sitting in the Yashica 635 for a while by exchanging portraits. Here is the roll. This whole story makes me oh so happy.