November 7th, 2008—
In this interview, Michael Tisdale talks about collecting vintage Bolex-Paillard home movie cameras and related ephemera. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Michael can be reached via his website, Bolex Collector, which is a member of our Hall of Fame.
I didn’t really set out to start a collection of cameras, it was really something that happened gradually.I didn’t even see the cameras at first as being collectible, and to some extent, I still don’t. But they’re really very usable cameras. You can still buy 16mm and 8mm film, and there are still technicians who will repair or modify the cameras. They’re still used in film schools by students, and many people still use them to shoot independent films and documentaries. It’s an odd thing to collect because their value is really determined by the usability and features and not so much age or rarity. Even though most of them are 40 or 50 years old or more, they’re excellent cameras and just too nice to sit on the shelf and not run film through.
At the same time, I’ve become passionate about appearance of the cameras and even the history of the company itself. I’ve found myself adding more and more of these cameras to my collection over the years, whether they’re working or not. They’re wonderful to display and look at. And best of all, most of the models are fairly inexpensive these days compared to the small fortune they cost during the 1940s and 1960s.
When I bought my first Bolex camera around 1991, I was looking for a cheap motion picture camera that offered the ability to shoot single frames and timed exposures. I was majoring in broadcast journalism and photography, and wanted to experiment with some simple animation and time-lapse photography.