What started out as a small experiment with a few old film cameras from the 1960s has now turned into a much larger project and sparked a revival and love for underwater film photography.
The Nikonos camera, invented in 1963, was one of the first commercially available underwater cameras; early models of the Nikonos were co-designed by the famous aquanaut and explorer Jacques Cousteau.
The camera is no longer manufactured, but it can easily be found secondhand on eBay at around $100. For someone looking to get involved in underwater photography without spending hundreds of dollars on underwater housing for a digital SLR, this old film camera is one of the best options available.
Brandon Jennings is the mastermind behind the Nikonos Project, a crowd-sharing experiment designed to make it easier for photographers to use one of the famed film cameras.
Jennings' first experience with film photography took place three years ago when he became “fed-up" with digital technology, which he says, took the personal touch out of the photographic process. “With film it just felt like there was more of an art involved, knowing you only had one shot and one roll of film," Jennings tells TIME.
Since then, Jennings' chain of camera exchanges has allowed him to share his love of film photography with more than 250 individuals worldwide.
The idea is simple. Starting with a mere eight cameras, Jennings sent the old Nikonos’ to a few photographers around the world to see what they could come up with. After the first round of cameras were shipped out of Jennings’ basement, a journal was added as a means to document each photographer’s experiences with their new camera. Each Nikonos recipient was then instructed to pass the camera on to the next person on the wait-list.
Eventually, Jennings plans to compile the images and stories from all of his Nikonos users into a book.
In the meantime, however, his stockpile of Nikonos cameras has increased to nearly 100, and already 700 people are on the waiting list. “We’re just looking for someone to have a good time, and to learn,” Jennings tells TIME. “It’s a good reminder that life isn’t so fast, that everybody can take their time and enjoy.”
Brandon Jennings is the creator of the Nikonos Project