Nicholas King finds out that ‘old-style’ photography and coffee are a good mix at Photo Crafts The Cafe
AS I immerse myself in the surroundings of Photo Crafts The Cafe in Kota Damansara, I am reminded of the time I first began my journey into photography during the 1990s, when I was still in primary school. digital cameras were still very much in their infancy — too pricey for the general market.
Delicacy and accuracy were needed to make the best of your photography sessions then. Only by inserting the film into the camera would you be able to use them. I knew I had to make those 36 film shots count or I would be going to have to fork out cash for another roll of 36; the ones with 72 shots were way costlier. The only way you were going to know if you had taken a bad picture was when you had developed it, which also cost money.
Today, it’s all about camera types — like digital single-lens reflex camera (dslrs), mirrorless, and premium and entry-level. A decade ago, these would all have been foreign to me. If the picture taken looks terrible or isn’t to my liking, I can now easily delete it. My 4GB or 8GB SD memory card would also ensure I could take thousands of shots, that I don’t miss out anything.
Such is the beauty of technology. Nowadays I don’t even need to bring a camera out with me when I’m not on an assignment because my smartphone does an amazing job at picture taking, surpassing most entry level point-and-shoot models.
Don’t even get me started on taking videos. Analogue cameras, as they are called today, have no such function — the only way to film your own videos was with a video camera or handycam. But even with all of the convenience I’ve gained through the progression of technology, I realise I’ve lost much more in art and feel. I would just snap away a single angle using a digital camera with little concern if the shot was good or bad. I never have to worry about over-exposure or downtime setting up film rolls because there are none. There is no longer trial-and-error.
KEEPING OLD-FASHIONED PHOTOGRAPHY ALIVE
The art of film-based photography must be preserved and its knowledge passed on, believes Adam Lim. The owner and founder of Photo Craft hopes to educate and re-introduce these skills to those who have no idea, or have forgotten, the art of film-based photography.
“The process of shooting a photo is different with these cameras. The limitations of 36 shots, for example, makes one choose his or her intended shoot carefully to obtain the best outcome. There is also the handling of the film and inserting it with care.
“Lastly, in developing the photos, there’s a technique to master. If you were the one developing the photos, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once they are developed.”
Lim has been in the business of selling and promoting film-based cameras and photography for sometime now. In 2010, he opened his own store and three years later, he incorporated a cafe which draws families, photography enthusiasts and those who just want a place to relax.
“The retail business came first and has always been my priority. For some time, the idea of a cafe had floated around. There wasn’t any real space to work with, so the idea was shelved. When the shop moved next door, we had an empty floor and customers kept suggesting to me to open up a cafe there as it was such a waste.”
Lim went through what most of us in our late 20s and older would have experienced when it comes to photography. He took interest when film cameras were still the norm. Before he started Photo Craft, he worked as a photographer in one of the local dailies. To him, film cameras and photography are where the heart of photo-taking lies.
“I have many interests but I found photography really fun. Given my background, I decided to share it with people. But as I got into the business I realised analogue photography was slowly fading out in favour of digital photography.
There was a dwindling interest, and knowledge, on the subject and I felt I had to preserve it lest people forget.”
Lim would be asked this time and time again. “It is very different from digital photography and I want to share this idea of what it’s like to be very much hands-on and ‘handmade’ — to use film and develop a photo. To be able to touch and feel your product is very different than just seeing it on the screen.”
“The basics are where the heart of the art lies,” Lim explains. “Photography began with film but today, people lack the understanding of its feel and process. They forget what it was like and what it took to enjoy photography.”
“Have most people ever experienced a blank roll shot and felt the frustration of wasting the roll? Digital skips the process of traditional photography because you ignore all the nitty gritty and purely focus on the outcome of the photo you just took. I feel people will start appreciating photography more when they know the basics and the original process behind it.”
It is an uphill battle, says Lim, because the public prefer digital technology which is synonymous with convenience.
“It’s also challenging because not being digital raises issues about costs,” he adds. “People feel it is much pricier than going digital. Camera companies also are slowly phasing out their films or discontinuing them.
“But how do we determine the ‘price’ and ‘value’ of something when it varies among people? How expensive is someone’s investment into something is about perception and what matters most to us isn’t the same for everyone. In the end, it isn’t about ‘how expensive’ but ‘what is your money’s worth.’
“You spend thousands for a good camera, especially if it’s a dslr, and you spend thousands more on lenses. If you spend about RM300 on a sufficient-enough film camera and invest in films, would it make the film camera more expensive an investment than the digital one?
“I would like to be clear that there is no good or bad when it comes to digital photography, only choice,” he stresses. “In the end, analogue or digital is an option in photography, …a means to an end, and that is to take a photograph.
“Do you choose to write or do you choose to type? The two are a means to an end but which came before the other? Which was the originating point? The basics are important but when it comes down to the process, from getting to Point B from A, you need to ask yourself, are you enjoying it?
“Thankfully we do get people who understand the need to preserve the art.”
Lim may be busy working at his new cafe but his heart remains on the second floor where his store is as it is also the place he holds numerous hands-on activities.
“Often times, I hold workshops, exhibitions by my patrons and photography sharing sessions. One day, I’d like to expand into offering workshops on other skills like drawing and writing. I feel these make one appreciate the subject even more.”
For more information on the activities, visit www.facebook.com/Ph+otoCrafts TheCafeook.com/PhotoCraftsTheCafe or www.photocrafts.my
“Photography began with film but today, people lack the understanding of its feel and process.”
Film cameras fill up the shelves.
Photo Craft The Cafe has a nice ambience.
Photos from patrons used as decor for the shop.
A vintage camera casing.