Unlike a lot of my photographer friends, I rarely go out for an unplanned wonder with a camera. Roaming around spontaneously searching for a shot is not my strong point and although I keep a camera in my car just in case it’s unusual for me to use it. Having said that it doesn't stop me trying and so last week when I found myself in between appointments with an hour to spare I got my camera out of the boot and went for a walk. I was in Brentford an area of West London on the Thames. I knew from previous fleeting visits that behind the high street there were quite a few old industrial buildings, warehouses and boatyards that once supported Brentford’s previous life as the London terminus of the Grand Union Canal. The Grand Union Canal was built to link London with Birmingham and Brentford situated at the confluence of the River Thames and River Brent was well place to be the final southern point for all the freight and goods that were traded between the two cities.
While wondering about looking for a shot I stopped to talk to Tony a demolition worker on his tea break, he was curious as to why I was shooting in ‘such a dump’ and I spent a moment explaining my particular visual take on the dull and mundane.
‘I've got an old film camera, I think it’s an Olympus.’ he told me.
‘If you’re interested I only wanna a score.’ he added.
Disappearing behind the security gates that acted as a barrier for the half-demolished building he was working in, he went off to get it. I carried on photographing an abandoned sofa on the pavement. A few minutes later he emerged waving small black camera above his head.
‘No, no it’s a Canon’ he shouted to me from across the road.
I went over to take a closer look and to my surprise in his hand was an almost perfect Canon A1 sporting a 1980 winter Olympics lens cap and even an original protective plastic cover over the inner film pressure plate. I told Tony that without a battery it was impossible to test and suggested that once powered up and tested he could certainly get something for it on eBay.
‘I can’t use eBay mate! if I get a battery would you be interested in it for a score?’ he said.
For any non British readers a score is London slang for £20, and for £20 I was interested. I told him that I pass Brentford quite often we agreed that if he got a battery he would call me. To my surprise about 40 minutes later I got a call.
“I’ve made a battery and tested it, it’s working okay” Tony told me.
He had ingeniously taped together four 1.5V button batteries with a brass bolt as the positive top cap.
‘It adds up to 6V, so it’s okay’ he explained.
Sure enough, it was and powered by Tony's makeshift battery the 37-year-old camera came to life, its red LED’s displayed brightly in the viewfinder and I could hear the shutter firing at all speeds, everything worked. We exchanged and as he disappeared again behind the security gate he reminded me to send him the photos I took with it.
So maybe I’m not that good at just going out and finding a shot but at least on this occasion, I found a very nice camera... thanks Tony.