In the shadow of the L train on South Wabash Avenue in the famous “Loop” stands an old school camera shop that has been there since 1899.
I walked in to the cluttered shop and felt like I had stepped through a portal to a different place and time. I walked in to a partially organized collection of everything analogue, obscure, time-tested, sometimes dust-covered, and stacked floor to ceiling, wall to wall.
The “young man” in the shop was probably 15 years my senior, and his colleague was more than a generation older. When I tried to stump them with my arsenal of photographic obscurity, they withstood my advances and met me at every turn. I mentioned a rumor of a 120 to 620 respooler in New York, they pulled out some rolls of his film. When I mentioned a “Contina LK” that I found at an antique mall, they told me it had a Zeiss lens. They laughed at my camoflage Holga, and I bought some film.
They do all the modern digital stuff too, but that’s not what caught my attention.
If you’re in Chicago, you owe it to yourself to find Central Camera, owned and staffed by the same family for three generations. Hop off the Blue Line at Jackson Station, and you’re not too far away…