Some things that can be toxic:
- the internet
- photography communities on the internet
- Twitter, which is on the internet
Add these together though, with a dash of film, and you get the film photography community on Twitter, which is actually really nice.
More recently, I spotted another one doing the rounds. Something called the #shittycamerachallenge.
I took a look. With a hashtag like that, how could you not?
Some weeks later, I found myself doing this:
â€” Lee Webb (@myfavouritelee) June 1, 2018
What is the Shitty Camera Challenge?
Very silent as it turns out as I can’t find any mention of map-making on the site.
The official rules for the Shitty Camera Challenge can be found at the official Twitter account, but I can summarise here.
The first task was to get hold of a shitty camera. Having picked these two up from a charity shop a couple of years ago, I was already spoilt for choice.
Next was to shoot some film – any film – in said camera over the course of the first week in June 2018. The next two weeks could be spent developing this film, with the final week of the month reserved for posting the results.
The first prize, the winner of which was selected randomly, was a copy of Chicago’s CTA album, which I’ve listened to on Spotify and can confirm is shit.
The photographs here are from that roll, shot in Shanghai over three days in that first week in June.
Part 1: The Former French Concession
The first day I went out to shoot for the Shitty Camera Challenge, I headed to the Former French Concession.
As the name explains, this was the Gallic neighbourhood in the days when parts of Shanghai were conceded to foreign settlements.
Today, it’s one of the nicest parts of the city. Leafy, clean, relatively quiet, and pretty expensive, it’s a place to visit if you’re ever in town. I don’t think I’d want to live there though.
One walk I like to take is from Taikang Road, home of the Tianzifang art district and tourist mecca, and head north up Sinan Road to Fuxing Park.
The park always has plenty of local folk dancing and whatnot, and a kinda famous statue of Marx & Engels too. Once through the park, you can head further north still towards the busier and noisier People’s Square or West Nanjing Road.
That route is where these first photographs are from.
Part 2: Suzhou Creek and the Bund
I knew I wanted to get a shot or two of Shanghai’s Pudong skyline into this thing, so a visit to the Bund was always on the cards.
What I also needed was something else nearby to make the trip out worthwhile.
Suzhou Creek runs west to east through Shanghai and into the Huangpu River at the north end of the Bund, which made the road alongside it a good route for my second session for the Shitty Camera Challenge.
Tip: going west to east if you shoot in the afternoon means going in the direction of the sun, which makes finding shots with good light easier.
If your photo walk is in the morning, obviously going east to west will give the same benefit.
I got fewer keepers than from the first session, but was happy the homage to Lu Yuanmin on the Waibaidu Bridge came out okay.
Part 3: Laoximen and the Old Town
As parts 1 and 2 had featured mainly the newer and cleaner Shanghai, I wanted part 3 to show the older and dirtier.
So for the final Shitty Camera Challenge session, I headed to the Laoximen area of the city.
If you’re in Shanghai as a tourist and want to visit the old city, search results are going to point you in the direction of Yuyuan Gardens and the nearby Old Street, aka Fangbang Road.
It’s not necessarily a bad place to visit, but it’s not really a genuine old residential area anymore. People do still live there, but they’re in amongst the masses of day trippers and souvenir shops in restored buildings.
The area around Laoximen, on the other hand, is genuine. The shikumen there, in a prime Shanghai commercial real estate spot, are 100% residential. You know this because their days are sadly numbered.
Starting at Dashijie subway station, I walked around Laoximen, the Yuyuan residential area, and finally down through the commercial old street and beyond, where this roll of film – and this challenge – was completed.
Why I shouldn’t have done the Shitty Camera Challenge
Despite enjoying making these photographs, there is a reason I maybe shouldn’t have joined this challenge.
As I write this, I’m partway through a photography project of my own; a 365 street photography project called the #leesixtyfive.
It’s a project with a deadline, and one that I’m behind schedule on.
The three afternoons I went out to make these photographs could have been spent catching up on my own thing.
If I fall short in that one by anything under 30 photographs, I might regret doing this.
Why I’m glad I did the Shitty Camera Challenge
A couple of reasons, really.
While this did take time away from the #leesixtyfive, it was actually nice to shoot something else.
I’ve been at that for almost a year now and, despite how much I’m looking forward to having the finished set of images, it is a grind shooting one thing for that long.
With that project being shot on digital and in colour, filling a roll of monochrome Rollei Retro 400S – a film you can find for yourself on Amazon – was kinda refreshing.
The results I got from that film are another reason I’m glad I joined this thing. You’re free to judge them how you want but, even with effort justification being real, I don’t think they’re too bad.
The camera I used may have been shit. The first prize definitely is. But I don’t think the photographs were.
If you also did the Shitty Camera Challenge, I hope yours weren’t either.
You can let us know in the comments below, or even submit them along with a write-up and have them published on here too. 😀
â€” Lee Webb (@myfavouritelee) June 8, 2018