Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chicago's Central Camera - They Do Film Right

Last weekend, my wife and I visited Chicago together for the first time in many years.  We stayed at the Palmer House Hilton, a most fantastic classy hotel that has been in operation longer than any other hotel in the USA.  While I didn't plan the trip, it just so happened that Central Camera is a block away on Wabash.  Central Camera is equally as qualified for a longevity award as Palmer House.  I last shopped there in 2002, and bought a Tamrac backpack, which I still have.  Since then, I have been able to photograph the front of the store during quick Chicago visits, but it was always on Sundays, so it was closed.  This time, I stopped by on a Friday afternoon and a Saturday morning.  They open at 8:30, which is when I stopped by after breakfast Saturday. The nice thing about getting there early - is to be able chat with the folks behind the counters.
First of all, Central Camera is the photo store that is so archetypical of  the genre. Old-school, with glass cases filled with used gear (and new) that will induce a severe case of GAS.  All kinds of delectable cameras and accessories.  Of course, they have digital gear, too. If they don't have it, you can have them order it.  They have film. Lots of film. I haven't seen that much film in a store -- ever.  They also process film.  Vivian Maier used to buy her film there, too.   I am sure she didn't chat up the folks at the counter, though.
I bought s bunch of Kentmere 400 b&w, and some C-41 film while I was there. I don't NEED any more cameras, and it's a good thing I don't live in Chicago, or they would be getting a lot more of my money.
Speaking of film -- Yes they DO film.
Katherine Greenleaf and Charles Ezaki at the film counter.
I had a good time talking with the folks there, and told them about the Film Photography Podcast.  I hope they listen in.  Stores like Central Camera are few and far between these days, and to walk into the store is to feel like it's a place that is welcoming and also a bit like a piece of history.  Yes, you can buy the latest digi item, but I'll bet that they have a lens hood that will fit that vintage Contaflex in your bag, too.   I know that if I were doing photowalks in Chicago, Central Camera would have to be a stopping point -- or maybe a starting point.   Anyhow, it was fun to shop there and talk photography.  It was just a year ago that I visited another iconic place -- Looking Glass Photo in Berkeley, CA.  Definitely a difference between the two locales, but no difference in their love of film photography.  You have to be passionate and knowledgeable about what you sell, and they have the right folks there.
So, if you are in Chicago, check out Central Camera. It's a destination, and a shrine to all things photographic.


Marcus Peddle said...

That looks like a good place to spend your whole travel budget. There are two neighbourhoods in Seoul that have dozens of camera and photo stores. Like Central Camera, they usually have the latest, greatest digital cameras and accessories but also cases packed full of film cameras and lenses. They aren't cheap, but the cameras are in good condition. Interestingly, the camera stores rarely sell film. There are different stores that sell film, printing materials, and so on. These are usually hidden away in offices on the second or third floors of buildings on back streets.
I live in a small city on the east coast that hasn't seen a camera store in many years so I have to do all my shopping online, except for once a year when I make my pilgimage to the photo neighbourhoods of Chungmo and Namdaemun.

walker said...

so dreamy. I want a store like that!!!