#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 04
The idea of a collection of daily words describing how you felt for 30 days of social distancing and isolation feels really meaningful to me and something that I think I’d really appreciate having in 10 years. Think outside the box of what you might typically write!— NaNoWriMo (@NaNoWriMo) March 31, 2020
The three screws were neatly piled on the sofa I was using as a workbench. Two to my left, one to my right, exactly as I’d taken them out of the camera. Prompted by curiosity and a desire to fix my Olympus Pen EE2, I had decided to attempt the repair myself. I breathed in as I prepared to take the top of the camera away. I knew I was unlikely to break it by pulling the top off, but this was an exercise I had never done.
Slowly, carefully, I lifted the armature away. I could feel some tension as I tilted the lid away from the main body. In the gap I had created, was a white wire connecting the two parts. I steadied my hands and took the lid off, mindful not to break the wire connection.
The lid balancing in my left hand, I observed the cogs, screws, and wires in front of me. They were full of dust but had lost none of their beauty. I followed their lines with my eyes, guessing at the chain reaction one turn of the advance wheel would cause. I was pretty sure I’d figured it out but before testing my theory, the camera needed a clean. I grabbed my brush and gently swept the dust away.
I turned the advance wheel until it stopped and pressed the shutter button. The cogs moved as I’d predicted. The springs, I had not immediately spotted, replied to the movement in a rhythm designed decades ago. It appeared flawless but this mechanism had started to fail. The last time I had used the camera, the advance wheel had wrecked havoc with the film. It had turned and stopped as normal until halfway through the roll when it took to turning forevermore. I had no idea what had happened and had shelved the camera away, the cost of repair not worth the camera.
But I could now understand how it functioned which meant I could, in theory, repair it. I turned my head this way and that in search of a better view of the mechanism, hoping to find the fault. But the wheel kept stopping when it should, the shutter button pressing and releasing the advance system of the film. Maybe the camera had simply needed a clean.
I repositioned the lid onto the body and screwed it shut. I tried the wheel and shutter on repeat until I was satisfied it was not about to misbehave again. I could picture it working inside now, the cogs actioning one another, the shutter button releasing a spring and snap, a photo would be taken.
There was something magical about this process. A bit of light, a bit of chemistry, and an image would appear on the negative. In truth, there was nothing magical. My 35mm camera had been designed with principles of physics, the film crafted with principles of chemistry. The science was sound and I understood the basics of it but this did not stop the magic from happening. I could imagine the light beaming through the lens, reaching the negative at full speed and recreating the world outside; the shutter falling to cut off the rays of the light, stopping their weaving of the image onto the negative; and then the chemicals mixing, dancing with the film to slowly reveal the photo. If not stopped, this dance would continue on, burning through the photo, swallowing it never to be witnessed by human eyes. And this for me was like magic, this understanding of the process in which chemical formulas took on the precision of magic formulas.