Rolling back years to the age of film

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2012, 12:00am

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Shoe designer Carter Ma Guowei is a fan of old-style photography who is saddened to see film being pushed into the sunset by digital cameras.

He has collected 500 rolls of rare film from all over the world in the past two years, including the first China-made film and a 126-year-old roll of Kodak film.

Now his moment has come, with a film photography exhibition that will run until May 20 in Jordan.

Ma, 27, from Guangzhou, has selected 250 antique rolls of film for the Golden Bygone Years exhibition at Studio Kim Tak.

What began as a hobby for Ma has turned into a conservation campaign. 'I would trawl through websites like eBay and Taobao to find these film rolls, and middle-aged fans are always pleasantly surprised to see a young fan like myself,' said Ma.

'They have donated treasured items to me with the hope I can pass on this history to future generations.'

Wong Ting-man, a film collector who also contributed to the exhibition, was recognised by the World Records Academy last May for owning the largest collection of instant cameras in the world - 1,042 cameras worth a total of US$130,000.

Instant cameras, widely known as Polaroids, produce a finished photo.

Both Wong and Ma recognise film, or analogue, photography is a dying art form. Although Ma does not own a digital camera, he admits using his phone to take photos and using a digital camera at work.

'It is inevitable that analogue photography is dying out because it is no longer used professionally, nor should it be. Digital photography - I admit - is infinitely more convenient,' said Wong.

One of his items on display is high-quality Polaroid infrared film rumoured to have been produced for the American military for taking pictures at night. 'It's perfect for secrecy because only one copy of an instant photo exists, with no negatives, so there can be no duplication,' he said.

Several vintage film rolls are from the mainland, including one produced during the Cultural Revolution - its red and yellow box is emblazoned with a Maoist political slogan.

Also on display is a glass plate - used before film was invented - of a landscape taken in the Qing dynasty.

Ma welcomed the new trend for taking smartphone photos with the Instagram application, which applies a vintage filter to images.

He said: 'I encourage young people who enjoy Instagram to give analogue photography a try.'

Studio Kim Tak's address is 6/F, 328-342 Nathan Road, Jordan.