in praise of average

The Olympus point and shoot camera I have, really, is average. It doesn't handle shaking very well, the video quality is pretty much watching a Youtube video at 360p and pictures have this washed out quality to them. Under, or, overexposed at times. Recording a video in daylight and exposing it to the sun creates a streaking across the frame.

But... if its your only option of taking photos, what do you do?

I grew up with access to cameras like the Olympus. I think most families did. The instant snap and shoot cameras are entirely perfect for holiday photos and parties, really. Outside of that, it becomes awkward to do things like nature photography and general portrait work, which is more preferable for DSLR or film. Recently, I found the family Olympus in the shed, charged it up and looked at the photos on it. The most 'recent' photos were from a ski trip in 2015, where I used it as a makeshift GoPro. From then on, I put it in my draw and simply forgot about it.

A while ago, I took the camera out, tempted to use it again. I took the camera to London, Glastonbury and Thanet to mainly see how well I could use the camera. I took video as well.

An allure for taking pictures using the Olympus comes from, I guess, the liminal 'genre' of such that has propped up in the late 10's. The definition of liminal (as per Wikitionary) details the word as: 'Of or pertaining to an entrance or threshold'. A betweenness of sorts. Recent terms of the word liminal define it as 'uncanny' or something 'not right'. Accounts like SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter and the liminal spaces subreddit detail photos of malls at night, deserted school hallways, vacant office blocks - you get the idea. At best these images can be described as hauntological. Liminal spaces act as a sort of purgatory through the content (schools/childhood) and the delibrate use of aged pictures (e.g. film or terrible cameras) to give it a vintage look. I suspect liminality has taken some uptick through this pandemic, y'know, empty spaces and all. All the photos have a timeless quality helped through the image quality and colours.

But really, the main use of using the Olympus camera has been through transgression.

I own a Canon EOS and a Nikon F5 at home. Both are very good cameras; I have no reason to use my Olympus for what ever purpose. I could take the exact same photos with the two of them... But I didn't want to. At night, neon and lights pop out massively in midst of the scenery. In the daytime, greys show well with making images look appauling (see the roundabout I took). Everything looks plain. Blurs give a rushed, frantic frenzy towards making the image. Most of my inspiration for this comes from playing Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days - a game where the visual aesthetic is intentionally made to look terrible and garish to the eyes. Moreso, overstimulating to the player. The photo style I'm talking about I cannot replicate on a conventional DSLR nor film. I don't want my photos to look pretty, nor am I really focusing on a particular subject of choice. The Olympus is roughly the size of a wallet. It can fit into my pocket and I don't have to focus on creating the best image. Yeah, film point and shoot camera exist - again running into the same pitfalls that I would with film/DSLR as I have explained.

The 'best' images do not exist here. I didn't really want to spend my time creating the best image. I didn't need to. At best I'd use MSPaint to touch up something but everything is presented as is. So yeah, there is beauty in the average here. For some, cameras like the Olympus are the only thing you have to making a 'good' photo - as was the case for me around 15 years ago.

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