When I was at school, and I was learning French, I never understood why the French language described inanimate objects as either masculine or feminine, similarly, in German. In the English language we just have things. It is a table. It is not feminine or masculine, transgender not even just going through a phase. It is simply a table nothing more. As I grew up and became more interested in my own language the thought of non gender specific objects disappointed me. I think for all the richness and complexity of the English language, for the times we were conquered and our language evolved; that we don’t feminise or masculinise objects is to our linguistic detriment. Of course the problem is that it is not the thing that is masculine or feminine, it is the prefix to the word itself in the construct of the language that denotes gender. So, in English a camera can never be referred to as male of female because the prefix “the” or “a” is with out gender and renders the object itself sexless. Or does it? My case and point to you is the Balda Baldessa
image from here
I found this camera on a market stall in the middle of York. It was a pretty dreary day and I wasn’t looking to buy a camera (at least that is what I told my wife, we all no Lomographers are always looking). I have to be honest with you when I saw this camera I believe it was in fact Love at first sight.
I find most cameras are boxy; it makes sense it a shape that works, sure their edges may be tapered but they are still square shouldered. But the Baldessa breaks the mould, just a little, but enough. The camera curves at both ends to the shape is elliptical rather that box. She sits in your hands rather than you having to hold her. This allows your hands to positively fondle the body. She has other female attributes besides her shape. She is an enigma. She isn’t formed like the other cameras where everything is obvious. Only though exploration can you find what makes her tick. It has taken me a long time to find the rewind mechanism (she may claim I still haven’t found it). She is a tease. For example the number counter when you wind on is not necessarily relevant to the picture you have just taken, clearly she knows the system but I don’t, meaning I think she is shooting when she is not. She has a built in light meter which tells you the settings to use for the shot but the results you get from manually setting are, in my opinion, superior. Like all women she knows this and therefore you have to work to get it. In order to manually set this lady you have to have patience. She is not designed for quick fly by the seat of your pants shooting. Each dial on her elegantly tapered lens moves individually but can be moved simultaneously so it often takes time to get it right. Her lens can shoot at 2.8 which is nice for those romantic candle light suppers, but if things get a little too dark then you can always use the hot shoe, personally I try not to because of how rich she makes ambient light look. . So all in all you really have to consider your shot perhaps negating the: Don’t think just shoot and Shoot from the hip rules of Lomo.
She is as unconventional as she is glorious. The shutter release sits on the front of the camera rather than on the top, so your fingers don’t grope her body, allowing a much more elegant release. To wind her on you have to use the secret winding mechanism which actually folds out from underneath the camera. She cannot be loaded in a hurry the film loads right to left rather than left to right and to load the film you have to hold down two buttons and wait for the whole back to spring off. It is all of these factors that make the Balda baldessa a very special camera, one that needs thought and consideration.
So, to conclude; The Balda Baldessa is not male or female because of the construction of language. She is female through a connection that I have made and while she may not be the best for the shoot from the hip style of Lomography, she is a great analogue camera.