Gian Luigi Carminati, 76, of Milan, has been repairing analog cameras for nearly his entire life and he shows no signs of stopping. His story was recently told in a two-minute documentary by filmmaker David Drills on Vimeo. Titled Master of Camera, it’s a beautiful piece of visual poetry that honors the all-but-lost craft of film camera repair, and one that photographers (at least those of us who remember a time before Instagram) will find deeply nostalgic.
Carminati’s story also serves as a reminder of the importance of following one’s passion. “When I got started, 35mm was all the rage,” he says in the film. “When the digital came, it felt like my job was over… Things are different now, a lot has changed.” Yet despite the challenges brought on by the industry’s transition from mechanical to computerized cameras, he has managed to continue his life’s work, operating out of a small shop simply labeled Riparazioni Macchine Fotografiche (in English: Camera Repair).
While he considers himself more of a technician than a photographer, Carminati still enjoys taking pictures on film. He has a collection of classic cameras at his disposal and the means to keep them running in good condition. He appears to be a fan of the process as much as the results and loves analog photography for the very reason that digital so quickly replaced it — the lack of immediacy.
“The analog is always fascinating, because we all want the surprise,” he says. “With the digital, there is no surprise left. You know immediately if it’s good or not.” He continues, “If I could talk to a camera, I would thank her, because photography has played a big role in my life.”
It’s only natural that a documentary about photography would be expertly shot and Master of Camera certainly is — although, no, it wasn’t shot on film. Drills used a Sony A7S II, a 4K-capable full-frame mirrorless camera designed to perform well in low-light situations, perfect for a dimly lit camera repair shop. You can see more of his work on his Vimeo page.