unboxing A Conspiracy Of Cartographers, vol. 1

At the suggestion of—I think—the good people at the Film Photography Podcast, I started following @loadfilminsubduedlight on Instagram. I don’t look at Instagram much, but one day a few weeks ago I called it up during some interminable time on hold or something, and I noted that @loadfilminsubduedlight had put out a zine. Being a bit of a lover of zines, and a sucker for photobooks, especially ones by hobbyists like me, I ordered one up.

@loadfilminsubduedlight is a guy named Eric Swanger, who also goes by @sitproperly on Etsy (where you can still pick up a copy of A Conspiracy Of Cartographers for the amazingly low price of $5, shipped) where he sells box and polaroid cameras and some screen printed t-shirts.

The beginning of the zine gives a statement of purpose of sorts: pictures of old stuff, taken with old film cameras (like really old, not like that sissy 30 year old film camera I shoot, I’m talking Brownies and such), generally on expired film stock (ike really expired, like that Ansco film I shot awhile back and still have a roll of). Mr Swanger’s website About page has a nice story about how he came to film photography, and it’s a bit similar to mine, really, though he went much farther down the digital manipulation rabbit hole than did I.

So the zine: it’s a great example of something I might be tempted to do one day, really. It’s a 1/4 sheet type zine, so a good printer, some decent paper, scissors, and a stapler and *poof*, you’ve got a zine. Mr. Swanger is also a screen printer, and he screen printed a bit inside the book and maybe did the cover too (and you can pick up t-shirts of his at his Etsy shop). The addition of the screen printing adds a bit of hand-made-ness to this that really adds to the zine-ness of it.

I like the presentation quite a bit.

The photographs—all old buildings, western-looking landscapes, and generally old stuff—look mostly home developed, with the typical issues that come along with developing at home, like bromide drag and all that. And along with old and toy cameras also comes some fun damage to film… there’s a rip in a couple of his (from his Argus C3) that look similar to rips I’ve gotten from forcing the Lomo LC-A to wind film a bit farther than the film really wanted to be wound.

Focus is a bit soft in many shots, which lends to their charm, and is probably due to the lenses in the old cameras he uses, and a couple of the cameras have some great vignette and flare characteristics. For the most part, the pictures are lofi goodness. But a couple stand out: both shot with an Agfa/Ansco Clipper Special and Fuji Acros Neopan, they’re sharp, contrasty, and clean and they stand out in my mind and give me a bit of pause when I flip through the zine because they’re so unlike the rest. This is neither bad nor good, but the sharpness and clarity from that camera/film combo stand out a bit to me, where others—Argus C3 + 1960 expired Ilford Pan-F; Agfa Clack + 1970 expired HP5; Kodak Brownie No. 2 Model D + Fomapan 400; and numerous others—are a bit more uniform in their level of contrast and sharpness.

How do I know what cameras and films he used? Each picture has three lines next to it: location, camera, film. Pretty groovy for film nerds like myself, and I appreciate it! I’m not sure that I’d do the same if I printed up a zine, but Allahu Alim. I stopped including it explicitly in image and gallery posts, but still include tags and all, so maybe?

Anyway, for $5, shipped, if you like hand printed zines and photography, you can’t go wrong!

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