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Outside the Frame: Using an old camera, instead of a new app, to get that vintage look

Rodrigo Abd, Associated Press writes:
When I was taking pictures for AP in Afghanistan in 2006, I noticed a lot of street photographers shooting with vintage box cameras of a style that was used in the 19th century. At the time, modern cameras were expensive and difficult to find in Kabul, so many people stuck with century-old technology.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Left: Mayan Queen Matilde Evelyn Ivonne Tzunec Bixcul, 19, representing Solola, in Guatemala's Solola state.

Right: Mayan Queen Maria Magdalena Lucas Lopez, 21, representing San Pedro Soloma, Huehuetenango.

I decided to buy one and the locals showed me how to use it, producing an unmistakably old-timey image — think Hipstamatic, but maybe not so hip, and far from automatic.

Ever since, I’ve been looking for a chance to use the camera on an AP assignment. The opportunity arose last month when I covered the National Indigenous Queen of Guatemala contest in Coban, Guatemala.

Women in the contest wore traditional dress and competed to best represent Mayan culture. One by one, the women sat in front of a black backdrop while I took their portraits, making exposures directly on photo paper inside the box camera. Each had to sit for two minutes while I made the picture.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Left: Mayan Queen Veronica Leticia Mejia Baten, 15, representing San Pedro Jocopilas, in Guatemala's Quiche state.

Right: Mayan Queen Heidi Sofia Chitop Grave, 15, representing San Miguel Uspantan, in Guatemala's Quiche state.

When I talked to these women, they said they’re competing in this contest to show that Mayan women have a voice and can represent their communities, while also preserving the traditional values of their culture.

I guess I was also preserving something, in a way, with my choice of equipment — which was suddenly hard to find on Kabul’s streets when I returned last year, thanks to the arrival of cheap, point-and-shoot cameras.

Jesus Cuque Lopez / AP

Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd manipulates a 19th-century style wooden box camera as he photographs a participant of the Rabin Ajau National Folkloric Festival in Guatemala City.

Musadeq Sadeq / AP

A file image of an Afghan street photographer taking a portrait of a customer with a wooden box camera in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 24, 2010.

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