Antique treasure from the past


Merritt Rast

Miles Sullivan holding his 100 year old camera. His favorite hobby is getting to collect and take photos on his antique cameras.

Senior Miles Sullivan carefully searches through shelves upon shelves of antique items, varying from broken trinkets to hidden treasure, for him the treasure is a clunky old camera; one that was used years ago.


“I found my grandpa’s old Polaroid 80A, which is just an old camera from the 60s, and I just clicked the shutter button. I was fascinated by how mechanical it was, and from there I started collecting,” Sullivan said.


 By joining photography club, Sullivan hopes to share his interest and allow others to use his fascinating findings. 


“I take them to photo club for photo shoots and do landscape photos…I mostly just like messing around. One of my favorite parts is that you can do a lot of experimentation with these old things,” Sullivan said. 


These antique cameras come in all different shapes and sizes. Sullivan’s coolest finding is a 1908 Conley folding camera.


“It’s very archaic… and difficult to use. And it’s just so different because…you don’t have a roll of film, you just have these gigantic film rolls,” Sullivan said. 


The prices usually vary depending on where the cameras are found. 


“[The 1908 Conley folding camera] was on the cheaper side. It was like $450 So it’s not terrible,” Sullivan said.


Even with older cameras, Sullivan is still able to learn how to use them and get decent pictures out of them.


“It’s been hard shooting on a super low ISO format because the exposure times are super long on these I’ve taken more bad shots than good shots,” Sullivan said.  “I have gotten a few decent ones, like my favorite one is a portrait that I took of myself on the pier and it turned out pretty nice.” 


Along with shooting his own portraits, Sullivan learned to develop his photos by installing his own darkroom. He uses three types of chemicals to get the process done within 10 minutes.


“You have a developer, fixer, and stop bath. I use a pyrazolidone hydroquinone developer that will develop the exposed silver crystals, and then I have stop bath, which is just acetic acid. It’s like vinegar, and that stops the developer from cooking it,” Sullivan said. “You have the fixer, which is sodium thiosulfate, and that just dissolves anything that’s unexposed to make sure your image remains preserved. They all work pretty well.”


Another interesting finding for Sullivan was a Nikon F. One of Nikon’s first Single-Lens Reflex cameras.


“It’s my only SLR. So it’s very clicky and tactile, and it’s just very pleasing to use. It’s about 60 years old,” Sullivan said.


After about a year of collecting, Sullivan managed to collect 13 cameras. While attending photography club, Sullivan and his friend, senior Jackson Gresh, are able to share their common interests .


“He’s the reason I got into the hobby and every time he gets a camera I’m like, ‘oh, I want that’ and then I get one too. So I’d say he’s definitely been a big influence. He has a lot of the same cameras that I have,” Sullivan said.


Gresh became very inspired the second he looked into the old polaroid he had found. Him and photography teacher, Jeremias Paul work to restore his finding.


“The first camera I ever got was a 1960s Polaroid. It was one of the old cameras, where you take the film out, you peel it apart. It was the very first camera I ever had where it had bellows and I just thought it was so cool,” Gresh said. “ It was like something sparked and since then it’s never stopped and that was a year and a half ago.”


Along with Sullivan, Gresh also developed his own film and enjoys doing all the technical work himself.


“I’ve always been a bit more of a do it yourself kind of person when it comes to fixing things or getting things done.. I don’t know if it’s just a lack of trust with other people or just me being a huge cheapskate,” Gresh said.


However, when buying old cameras, there is a chance they may not work. To fix them, one must search for the right parts.

But most of the time these parts aren’t being sold anymore. With the cameras that aren’t fixable, Gresh and Sullivan like to display them for show. 


“I give them to people who like to make decorations and things out of the cameras. If it’s broken, it doesn’t serve me any good and I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t turn it into shelf art,” Gresh said


Famous photographer, Ansel Adams, is a big inspiration for Gresh. He hopes to shoot photos similar to his level some day. 

“He’s always been a bit of an inspiration of mine. I’m nowhere near his level of technical capability. But he’s just always someone I’ve always kind of looked up to,” Gresh said.