What is the opposite of Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point?

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Well, this picture of an exploded Pentax Spotmatic F is not quite the opposite, but you know what I mean (blowing up the camera instead of objects in front of the camera).

There's something about looking at this image that makes me feel both exhilarated and terrified at the same time. Exhilarated by the thought of all these pieces having been constructed, assembled, and working together to produce an image. And terrified by the incredible complexity of something that seems so simple, which is the closest I've come to a personal understanding of Kant's sublime. I can't imagine how it would feel if I had any intimate knowledge of this camera, rather than just a vague sense of its importance.

Pentax Exploded for Photoethnography blog.jpg

P.S. Here is a video of the scene I'm referring to in case you haven't seen it before or would like to see it again.


My grandfather was a mechanical engineer at Kodak in the 1950s and 1960s (back when they actually made cameras) and was responsible for working out the details of mass production of some of their cameras. Seeing the blown up Pentax makes me marvel all the more at the task he faced.

Ummm.... you're missing a screw in that photo. It's an M3 screw, used to attach the dwizzlestick to the dwazzlecurtain.

Just kidding. I wish I had that tech knowledge too!

I find it quite sad to think about all the Spotmatics - and other mechanical SLRs - that have been just thrown in the bin over the years. With their finely-made gears and springs and so forth. Nothing lasts forever, but I imagine that somewhere in Japan a retired factory assembler weeps a silent tear in the dead of night whenever one of these is chucked away.

Also, if whoever invented the screw had managed to patent the concept, he would have been a millionaire from this one camera alone.

While I'm at it, you could have killed two birds with one stone and called the picture a blow-up. Blow-Up, geddit? Michelangelo Antonioni? Blow-Up? Sorry. Bad pun.

My first complete disassembly of a camera was this model! Two years ago I was making jewelry, and had a Spotmatic sitting in storage that skipped frames frequently. I decided to do a line of jewelry using the beautifully machined camera parts, and set about taking the Spotmatic apart piece by piece, very carefully. Within a few days, I had forgotten the jewelry part and was totally absorbed in the intricacy and harmony of the industrial design. If this isn't genius, I don't know what is anymore.

Since then I have actually succeeded in repairing some Koni Omega rangefinder bits, a Minolta, and the odd lens. I have a loose front element on a Nikkor 85 mm 1.8 lens, and a project box of old rangefinders from the 60's to work on -- but taking the Spotmatic apart piece by piece was a mind-expanding initiation into the spirit of these machines.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason C Romero published on February 8, 2011 3:14 PM.

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