“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”

Shooting with the Nikonos III underwater camera has been a harsh lesson in disappointment; it’s difficult to use, considering it’s such a simple camera. There appears to be a lot of physics involved in underwater photography? Or is there? Perhaps I’m just making excuses for the high rate of unusable images I’ve ended up with since becoming obsessed with this forty-five-year-old water-tight temptress.
Well exposed images, I don’t generally have an issue with – what’s giving me cause for concern is focus, or lack of it. I know what the problem is – I set the focus distance on the lens, take a couple of shots at the correct range, but then I move and forget to reset.
Having said that, I do love these images, which are the first ‘proper’ underwater shots that I’ve made with the Nikonos; out of focus kind of works, and in the words of the great photojournalist, Henri Cartier-Bresson, “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”… whatever that means?

All images, which are actually test shots for an underwater shoot next week with five models, were made using a Nikonos III camera with 35mm lens. Filmstock is Kodak Colorplus 200, and Ilford HP5 400 pushed to 1600. Developing and scanning by The Latent Image.


  1. I think the lack of focus in some of the shots adds to the images, it’s as though that’s how you’d see underwater? Stunning images. I’d love to have any of them hanging on my living room wall.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love them! Did you push the Kodak Colorplus 200 to 1600 as well? Or just different lighting conditions? I have a Nikonos that I haven’t tried out yet.


  3. By the way, we have several Nikonos V/III cameras and love zone focusing. FYI, in case you didn’t know, Nikon indicates that the lenses are “optimized” for focusing on dry land. In the event the camera is used underwater: “when focusing underwater, if you actually measure the camera-to-subject distance you must set the distance scale to 3/4 of the measured distance. However, if you estimate the distance underwater, simply set the lens distance scale to the apparent distance.” So, aqualung…check, mask…check, diving watch…check, camera…check, tape measure…check!


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