Once I unpacked my bag, and had a very important shower (I did not get to shower in Mexico, after being chased by dogs; more on that story later) and threw on some clothes, unpacked my Mamiya 645, loaded some film and left the building. I snapped my first shot, not far outside my Casa. Disaster struck. About a week before my trip I took out my Mamiya 645 and it would not engage the shutter, in fact, the mirror was stuck. I took it to the Camera Doctor in NYC (yes, there really is a Doctor for Cameras, shutterbugs!) and alas the poor baby, who had taken so many incredible images for me was dead. I actually think I cried. But then survivor mode kicked in followed by Ebay and I managed to secure a Mamiya 645AFDII in pristine condition that arrived in the knick of time for my trip. The only worry, would it actually produce images for me! I mean, going on a trip with a FILM CAMERA that you haven't even tested or ran a roll of film through is the biggest risk I ever took (second to getting back together with my ex!). Unfortunately as Mick would NOT sing, Time was NOT on my side. I had to take a risk. I put my hands to God and put all my faith into this shiny new Mamiya that it would produce beautiful images for me!
So, within seconds of walking out of the building. Snap. Crunch. Zing. Silence. Film was not advancing. ERROR in bold capital letters blinking instead of where my 2 should be. You know that sinking feeling when you feel you lost your keys/phone/wallet/child? Well, it was that feeling. The feeling your heart just sank into your bowels. I'm in Cuba, CUBA, I'm in Cuba and my camera doesn't work. I felt the tears start to run down my cheeks and I rushed back up the stairs and into my room at the Casa (which I still accidentally have the key for, sorry Abel!) and sat on the bed for a second to compose myself. This could not be happening to me. Could it? I thought the black cloud was lifting, I was happy with the love of my life and all was good in my world. But now, now, this? Ok, calm down SLP, the worst case scenario I'll shoot my Nikon digital. That would not be the end of the world. Somehow to me, that seemed like the end of the world. See, my process is all about Film photography. Savoring the slow moments, savoring the fact I had to ration my shots, that I couldn't see them in preview, that I have NO IDEA if they are really going to come out great - I just always have this amazing feeling of hope and faith when I shoot film. I feel like I got it, I feel like I caught the person at the right moment - between blinks - between movements - but still, there is that 'you never know' feeling which is so thrilling to me. When my scans come back from the lab you bet my heart skips a beat just like I had laid eyes on beautiful boyfriend for the first time (now Ex). I would run to my computer, hit download and can barely contain my excitement to view them for the first time. I swear, it's better than sex and it lasts longer.
As I sat on the bed, wondering what this was karmic punishment for, I thought... hmmmm. What if I try another lens? The 55mm was actually my favorite lens for my street portraits, it's the equivalent to a 35mm in Digital, which is a little wide but I could get nice and close. It isn't a true portrait lens, that would be the 80mm which is like a 50mm in digital. So, you know, I just so happened to have an 80mm in my bag. I almost didn't pack it, because I rarely use it, but I actually brought a few lenses on this trip including a Macro manual focus. I switched to the 80mm and lo and behold - it started working again! I was so happy, still extremely emotional and also very very nervous (was this a faulty camera, would it do it again, would my film even come out?). As I said earlier, I just had to have faith (George Michael said so too).
I composed myself and walked over to the Malecon where a passer by took my photo (very windswept) and I walked on down to the nice view of the Fort.
Sara Louise Petty