A Kiev Konfession
By Joe Shupienis


My name is Joe, and I'm a Kievaholic.

[audience: HI JOE!]

It all began innocently enough. Like many other Kievaholics, I started on eBay, looking for lenses for my "brand N" 35mm equipment. I saw mention of "Russian lenses" from time to time, and finally I got up the courage to look at one of the web sites.

I discovered that there were medium format "Russian" cameras too, notably the Kiev 60 and 88 models. I suddenly began to crave one. Just like an alcoholic moves from beer to whiskey, I was ready to make my move from 35mm to medium format, and bought a used Kiev 88cm from an individual on eBay.

It came with the full kit -- two film backs, a waist-level and metered prism finder, and an 80mm Arsat lens. When it arrived, my hands shook with expectation. I opened the box. The smell was awful!

But bravely, I brought the big, black camera to my face, gulped, and took my first shot. I then discovered to my horror that one shot wasn't enough! Immediately, I knew I had to take more. Before I knew it, the whole roll was gone, and I was reeling from the experience.

I took the roll to the lab across the street from where I work. They were happy to serve me all the 120 proofs I could take. While there, I bought a couple 5-packs of film for the road. I went home and immediately ripped open two rolls and got loaded, using both backs. Like any good addict, I was convinced that "if one is good, two is better".

The first proofs came back from the lab. Some were OK, the rest were all light struck. A sensible man would have known when to quit. A non-Kievaholic would have cut his losses and put it all back on eBay. So I did what came naturally to me. I got out the black sticky foam, the scissors and the knife, and fixed the light leaks. Then I had to "test" the backs, so I got loaded again and drove to another town where I could take "different" shots.

This became a pattern over the next few weeks. Over and over again, I would wake up, get loaded, and start driving -- stopping anywhere I thought I could get a quick shot. My friends started to look at me funny and hold their noses when I pulled out my Kiev. I ignored their questioning looks. After all, what did they know?

I lost track of where I'd been and how many shots I took, and how many places I got loaded. Even this excess was not enough. Friends who used to like to go with me for a few social shots were now finding excuses not to go with me. I started spending all my time on the 'net looking for and buying lenses. First came a 65 mm MIR, then a 120mm German Biometar. A 45mm MIR and a 150mm Kaleinar from the Ukraine were soon added. I started making new friends -- Mike in Atlanta, Lemiu in LA, and Pavel in the Ukraine.

I got a 2x teleconverter, and more dark slides "just in case". By this time I noticed how my hands would sometimes shake, so big sturdy tripods became necessary to support my Kievaholic habits, especially when I was taking shots all night long. Some evenings I went out for a quick shot and didn't come home until the wee hours. I went to a wedding and took over a hundred shots! I started hanging out in the strangest places, looking at things only I could see. I was taking so many shots and getting loaded so much that I spent an entire vacation doing it, traveling to places I'd only heard of before, and sleeping in cheap, seedy motels.

I tried everything to quit, but nothing worked. I tried to stop cold turkey, only to find myself buying another body. I tried to cut down on the size of my shots with a 6x4.5 back, but that only made me take more shots on each roll. Even subjecting my proofs to the harsh criticism of photo.net failed to put a damper on my enthusiasm.

I'd like to say that it is over. That I have found experience, strength and hope in the 12-exposure method. But that would be a lie. To be rigorously honest, I must admit that I have secretly been buying Kiev lenses for my "brand N" 35mm cameras. And then a Kiev 19 showed up one day. I have even gone as far as buying a Kiev bellows attachment, in my quest to get zoomed.

Compared to "brand H", I have to say that I have found the quality of the glass to be amazingly good. The cameras have proven to work reliably and predictably, if not smoothly. I have become a better photographer because the equipment has moved me away from the "point and shoot" mentality, and forced me to "compose and expose". And carrying all that heavy equipment on a Saturday morning hike is a perfect way to get out of the house and exercise.

As I look back at my Kievaholism, I am grateful. I don't think I'll ever quit. I'm having way too much fun! I have gotten the most fantastic return on my relatively small investment: beautiful pictures and a healthful, enjoyable experience while taking them, 12 frames at a time.

Thank you all.

[Audience: Thanks for sharing Joe. Keep coming back!]


Copyright © 2001 Joe Shupienis - All Rights Reserved - Used by permission