I’ve always been thinking that I need to document my days of youth more, as moments pass but the memories will last if you document them right. Since I became a photographer, this urge to tell stories has only been ever increasing. That’s why I decided that this year for New Year’s Eve, I needed a fun challenge. Since, obviously, it had to be photography related, I figured I could go for the good old disposable camera with flash to take pictures all night. Yet, that idea has been done by practically any teenage girl that’s looking for low quality, grainy, out of focus shots for their Instagram page. Since I am not a teenage girl, I had to look for another playful idea.
That’s when, looking through my stuff for anything that can be photography related, I came across my old BlackBerry. Now, this is not one of the fancier, more recent BlackBerry’s with good specs and a good camera. Rather, this was my old BlackBerry Bold 9780 with a whopping 624 MHz single-core processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 5MP camera. Seems like a brutal machine, right? I took a few test shots with it and it was absolutely perfect for the job. The quality was terrible but not that terrible that the pictures are unusable, it had a flash so I could take photos during the night when it would obviously be dark, and I could store an SD card in there so I would have sufficient storage for all my bangers.
My experience on the evening itself could not be more fun. The camera (I will refer to the BlackBerry as a camera from now on because it’s useless doing anything else these days) was incredibly slow when firing the flash so I would have to ask people to stand still while holding a fun pose, so the camera could do its job in capturing an image that had actual focus and no motion blur. While this might sound less than convenient and a recipe for generic posed group shots, it actually created a whole new dimension to photography for me. It forced me to direct my subjects a lot more than usual as I needed to create the picture in the real world rather than with my camera, as I could not rely on changing any settings on the camera to create a good image. The only thing I had control over were my subjects while the camera pointed a beam of light at them while stocking up information through its tiny lens. At the same time, the people I took shots of had to hold their poses for an unnatural long period of time and I feel like you can see that the pictures came out with a slightly different vibe because of it. I mean, when somebody is taking pictures of you with 7 year old BlackBerry in a dimly lit venue while asking you to hold your cool pose while the camera takes the shot, you might catch on to the randomness and weirdness of the situation so the final shot will somehow reveal that too. Concurrently, a lot of the shots I took where spontaneous and ‘in the moment’ and contain some of my favorites of the experiment. I can’t count the times I missed focus or had a lot of motion blur going on but the shots that came out good are pretty cool.
While I can’t say that I produced any perfect pictures in terms of technical quality that evening, the noisy quality of the sensor and harsh lighting from the flash set the tone for a mood that I could not reproduce using my iPhone or any other camera. I imported the images into Lightroom to do some basic editing but next to some color correction and pulling down some shadows, I couldn’t touch the files too much without breaking the low-quality JPEG’s. I took almost 200 shots that evening but I have made a selection of the ones that I think tell an accurate story of the evening. You can view those below.