Sunday, December 28, 2008

Manufacturer's Instructions

Holding firmly to my resolution of yesterday, I decide to load the Diana (my happy-making Christmas present) with its first roll of film. The well-illustrated instruction booklet tells me how.

Remove the Rear Door. Insert the fresh film roll into the left side. Thread the film across to the right side Take-up Spool. With the Rear Door still off, turn the Advance Wheel counterclockwise and ensure that the film is transporting and threading smoothly by turning two or three complete revolutions. Replace the Rear Door. Turn the Rear Door Switch to "Lock" and look through small red window on the Film Format Switch. 120 film has its shot numbers printed on the back, so you can use this window to count your exposures.

Here is exactly where I run into trouble. Nothing is visible through the small red window. I cautiously turn the Advance Wheel forward, increment by increment, and can feel the film advancing inside the camera, but nothing nothing nothing is to be seen in the small red window. After prodding and fiddling and holding the small red window under various lights, I decide the only way to find out what is going on is to take the Rear Door off the camera, even though I know this will expose and ruin the entire roll of film.

With the Rear Door off, I can see that I have advanced the film all the way to exposure number 4 and that the number 4 is positioned where it should be visible through the small red window. I put the Rear Door back on. No number 4 is visible through the small red window. I take another roll of unopened film out of the three-pack box of Lomography Brand Black and White 100-Speed 120-Size Film. Only then do I notice there is a lot of tiny text printed on the inside of the film box. I rip open the film box so I can read what is printed inside it. And this is how the message begins:

Diana loves lomography B&W film but due to the film's black backpaper it is not always easy to see what exposure number you are up to.

When they say "not always easy to see" they mean "impossible to see." Saying that it is "not always easy to see" the exposure number on their film through the small red window is like saying it is "not always easy to see" a coffin that is buried under six feet of soil.

The tiny printing on the inside of the film box goes on to provide a whole new (alternative) set of instructions.

1. Load your Lomography B&W film
2. Pay attention to the position of Mr. Lomography's nose on the Advance Knob
3. From this point turn the Advance Knob anti-clockwise 9 times. You will now be ready to shoot your first image. For the 2nd shot think of your Advance Knob as a clock
4. After each exposure look at the position of Mr. Lomography's nose. Wind Mr. Lomography's nose backwards 14 hours
5. For each additional shot, wind Mr. Lomography's nose backwards 14 hours

Sad to say, the Advance Knob on my brand-new Diana has no picture of Mr. Lomography on it. My Advance Knob (known as the Advance Wheel in the former set of instructions) has a flower on it, and the flower has no nose.

I phone my daughter, the Diana wizard.

"Girl, does your Advance Knob have a picture of Mr. Lomography on it?"

"Yes, it does."

"Mine has a flower."


"And do you count from Mr. Lomography's nose and wind backwards 14 times for each new shot?"


"You don't?"

"I just look at the number through the little window."

"Wait, you can SEE the shot numbers through the small red window in the Rear Door?"

"Yes, of course."

"But the Lomo film you gave me admits right inside its own box that you can't see the numbers. They are this faint white ink stenciled against flat black paper."

"Well I always use that Ilford film that you gave me a ton of along with the camera. And the numbers are big and shiny. Black against white. I've never used the Lomo film, but I didn't get it together to order the camera online so I bought it at Urban Outfitters, and that was the only film they had."

"Do you think I should draw a nose on my flower?"

"I think you should go out and buy some Ilford film."

The Flower