PHOTO GALLERY | Rediscovering Bratislava with an analogue camera

I have come to love analogue photography again. I love the nostalgic feelings it brings up in me, going back to my childhood and family holidays. I love the excitement of not knowing how the pictures will have turned out until the moment I’d pick up the developed pictures from the local photo shop. Most of all, however, I love the fact that, shooting pictures on a film roll with only a limited number of pictures and no possibility of erasing anything, forces me to take my time taking the pictures. I don’t have the luxury to carelessly snap away and only later go through the pictures and keep the ones I like most. The moment that shutter snaps, the picture is taken and you must move on. This is so different from shooting with a digital camera or with the camera on my smartphone. Nowadays, people barely look at what they are taking pictures of. They would shoot a multitude of pictures of the same object, person or event, only to really see what they were looking at when they are already home and are preparing the pictures for filter editing and Instagram uploads. I found out that analogue photography actually makes me look at the world and enjoy it on a whole different level.

For many years, however, I have been guilty myself to this careless behaviour towards photography. I have collected an insane amount of pictures on my hard drives and the Cloud. It is very likely that most of these pictures I will never, ever look at again, forgetting I actually have them stored somewhere. This all changed when I visited for the first time an exhibition of the Slovak photographer Karol Kállay, in the National Gallery in Bratislava. Instantly, I became a fan of his work and the way he viewed the world around him through his camera lens. I told my wife I wanted to start taking pictures that are meaningful to me, instead of using my cameras just for the sake of collecting images of things I have seen. I wanted to pick up analogue photography again. So, for one of my birthdays, my wife gave me not only a beautiful book of Karol Kállay’s photographs of Bratislava but also an analogue disposable camera, with the message: “Go out and take pictures of Bratislava the way you see it, like Kállay took his. We will develop the pictures and the best one we will frame and hang on the wall”.

And so I did. One October afternoon I went into the city and took pictures. I only had 36 pictures on my roll and, admittedly, very little experiences of shooting analogue (not counting my childhood endeavours). But God did I enjoy it! I noticed things in Bratislava that I have never noticed before in all those years of living here. I realised all over again how beautiful and complex this city actually is. and then there was that excitement of developing the pictures that came flooding back in. I filled up the roll in one afternoon and immediately went to the local Kodak store. A week later I went to pick up the pictures and I couldn’t wait to unpack them and show them to my wife, just like I did to my parents when I was still a child. Nostalgia all over again.

Bratislava is particularly suitable for analogue photography. The city is a complex mixture of architectural history, ranging from old majestic winter palaces from the time of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, to medieval churches, to socialistic hotels and apartment blocks, to modern offices. At the same time, there are a lot of derelict buildings scattered throughout the city, which adds an additional air of a time gone by to this vibrant city. Although I understand this may be heavily depending on personal taste, to me the aged look of the grainy analogue pictures does great justice to the character of Bratislava. Now I understand even better why I got so drawn to the Karol Kállay exhibition about this city. In a way, Bratislava has the look and feel of a city that got stuck in various stages of time. Kállay managed to frame her in all those stages and so I am trying to do the same.

I am in the very early stages of figuring out this “new” way of photography. I got my hands on a Minolta X-700, bought a black-and-white film roll, which I can not wait to try out. To me analogue photography brought back meaning in taking pictures. Below you find a selection of my first attempt in showing Bratislava through my own “analogue” eyes. I am fully intent on doing this again. To be continued….

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Derelict building on Kapitulská ulica
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One of the two angels guarding the road to Michalská brána
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Michalská brána
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One of the side entrances to St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Apartment above Pinot U Bruna, right behind St. Martin’s Cathedral
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View on Primaciálne námestie
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Manderlák, the first “skyscraper” of Bratislava, built in the 1930s
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The iconic city tour train riding the cobble stones of Kapitulská ulica
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The Holocaust Memorial, built in 1996 on the spot where once stood the Neolog Synagogue
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Hviezdoslavovo námestie
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Photo exhibition on Hviezdoslavovo námestie
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The Slovak National Theatre on Hviezdoslavovo námestie
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Čumíl, the man at work, one of the iconic statues in Bratislava that brings out the best in people
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Hlavné námestie, or Main Square
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Passage underneath the Primaciálny Palác, or the Primate’s Palace, built in the 18th century
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Obchodná ulica, once the place where one went shopping but now finds MacDonalds and kebab

 


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