The Painted Camera Conclusion

It’s been well over a year since I first mentioned that I wanted to paint my mom’s camera. (Back story: it had been ruined in our basement flood, and out of everything we lost, the now non-functioning camera brought me close to tears.) That post brought up a resounding no!, and admittedly, I was on the fence. Yes, even after you said not to; even though we all share the belief that paint can fix (almost) anything.

I left it alone for the time being, and then I shared this Renegade display with you. Surprisingly, seeing another painted camera changed your minds, and strange as it may seem, that meant a lot to me. As someone who is typically stubborn and rarely listens to rational suggestions, your opinion mattered to me. Because in the end, it was more than just my mom’s camera. Originally handed down to me as a utilitarian classroom tool, it ultimately became my passion and career path in life.

Months later, the camera still sat untouched. I was clearly over thinking the whole to paint, or not to paint?, spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Then this pin was brought to my attention:

I loved them. I wanted them, too. And then recently, we received a package from Susan of Jubilee Furniture. She came to our rescue once before when we needed a filing cabinet for our office (turned studio!), and she thought of us when this discarded Pentax came across her donation box:

Rather than risk painting my camera, she suggested I paint another. (On a side note, she also filled the package with beautiful scarves, and if you’re in the Chicago area, you must go to Jubilee. It’s furniture heaven. Be sure to give Susan hugs, because she’s amazing and sweet and thoughtful. You can also follow her blog, here, for current inventory updates.)

After verifying that the camera wasn’t worth millions (it’s not), I got to work discarding the strap, removing the lens, and wiping it down with warm, soapy water. Cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol helped me rid the stubborn grime.

After putting it back together, I used this super glue to secure all the loose parts. Anything that could be removed – including the lens itself – was glued to the body, and a few thin lines were applied to the film winder and crank.

At this point, I realized I could paint the camera any color I wanted, but in the end, I chose the standard glossy white. It’s final resting place would be in the studio, and it’s already been decided that my grandma’s chair would be the star of the show. (That is, once the fabric’s been chosen.)

It took four thin coats to get it as white and opaque as I had in mind, and it’s better than I could have ever imagined! I’m in love! (In addition to being stubborn, I can be dramatic, too.)

The original camera texture shows through the gloss finish, making me very, very happy. You’re even able to read the manufacturer details etched in the metal.

And for good measure, here’s the Pentax with my (mom’s) Minolta. Aside from the obvious difference in brand, they’re aesthetically identical. It was the perfect test subject!

I’ve no regrets whatsoever, and I think (oh, boy) that I’m going to leave my mom’s camera untouched. However, I make no promises on future cameras that cross my path – because, after all, a whole group is better than one.

Thank you, Susan!

Second image via The Blog Is Found.

24 replies on “The Painted Camera Conclusion”

  1. You’re very welcome, Kim! Camera looks amazing! Totally love it.

  2. Oh! I scrolled through the photos first (like an eager kid) and thought you painted your moms, I literally gasped. I love the look of the white one for sure — but I can imagine the sentimental nature of your mom’s actual camera so I agree leaving it in it’s natural state is a good idea :)

  3. Love it! I’ve got an antique camera collection (started about 15 years ago) and a couple of not so fabulous 70s cameras among my Polaroids and Brownie box cameras. This may be the perfect way to bring them out of hiding and add a pop of inspiration to a display I’m getting a little tired of!

  4. I’m SO glad you didn’t paint your mom’s camera because there is something about the painted one that I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on it but I’m sticking by my original choice to say no to paint. But I’m glad that you got the chance to try it out and see what it would really look like on a non-sentimental one!!

  5. perfect compromise! i wasn’t a reader when you first posted about painting your mom’s camera or i would have chimed in with a ‘noooooo!’ and then suggested you grab something less sentimental from a thrift store or garage sale to paint instead. so way to take my imaginary, late to the game advice even though you have no idea who i am ;-)

    i have my dad’s old SLR (it was actually my parents’ big splurge after they got married and had a little wedding money) and i love it. it still works great some 35 years later, though my husband shoots with it more than i do. i’d gladly paint a thrift store camera, but there is no way i’d touch my dad’s!

  6. Aw Kim, I’m sorry to say = ( that I prefer a camera, any camera, in their original state. I love how older cameras look when they are displayed in bookshelf, etc. I feel they add character.

    Again, I’m sorry to disagree = ( I love your funky style though = )

    ~ L

  7. I love the idea, but I gasped when I saw she sent a Pentax K1000. I am hoping it wasn’t working :) because they are some of the best old film cameras that were made for hobbyists. My ex had one, and I loved shooting with good b&w film on it. I’m hoping to get a new-to-me Pentax K1000 some day.

    However: you’re loving it as a painted camera, and that’s what matters! I second the idea that it would make a cool bookend.

    1. No worries to anyone who disagrees! It’s total personal preference – I knew there would certainly be people who didn’t like it, and that’s okay.

      I do like the idea of bookends. I also have an old brownie camera that I can add to the mix (unpainted!), and I’m definitely itching to add a few more – painted or not!

  8. This looks great! I love the look of the painted camera. But I totally understand the hesitancy to paint your mother’s old one. I have some wooden birds that my grandfather carved & painted and if I’d gotten them from ANYWHERE else I would have painted them white and hung them by now, but because of the history I don’t want to ‘ruin’ them… Painting another camera like this was a great solution.

  9. UHG- My first gut reaction is sadness. I know, I know, it didn’t work anymore but there’s something so sterile about the stark white (and I LOVE white!)that makes it seem so plain and sad. Dead even with no more charm of it’s past look. I dunno, something about the old cameras and all the vintage black skin with the matte silvers and classic fonts just moves me. Seeing the glass painted over is sad too! I swear I’m not PMS or on anything. I just don’t LOVE it?

    1. Jen, that’s okay! At least it wasn’t my mom’s camera – so there was no sentimental attachment. If it helps, I have a few other vintage cameras that I have no plans of painting!

  10. Seeing your mom’s camera brings back so many memories! I used the same camera for my photography classes in college. (My parents received it as a wedding gift in the early 70s!) Even brought it on my first trip to Paris, along with a TON of film! I loved it so much, but eventually upgraded to a camera that could automatically advance the film for me. I was always forgetting to advance the film! Sure learned a lot though using a camera that couldn’t think for itself. ;-)

  11. It looks great! You are so lucky that you got another camera so you didn’t have to paint your Moms. Now you can be on the hunt for more old cameras to paint and add to your collection. :)

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