A Journey Through Time: Capturing the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta with a Century-Old Camera

Clara Bullock | BBC News

In a remarkable display of vintage photography, Simon Williams, a photographer from Bristol, has transported viewers back in time at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Armed with a Kodak Panoram, a camera that ceased production 90 years ago, Williams captured stunning images of the Clifton Suspension Bridge as colorful balloons gracefully floated above during the festival’s morning ascent.

Having purchased his first 19th-century camera five years ago, shortly after retiring from his teaching career, Williams described the experience as both a challenge and a delightful pursuit. His passion for these antique cameras has only grown stronger, with a burgeoning collection now gracing his shelves.

The allure of these classic contraptions extends beyond their aesthetic appeal. Williams shared his fondness for tangible photographs, emphasizing the disconnect he felt with digital photography. For him, there is something inherently satisfying about holding a physical print, an artifact of time captured through meticulous manual labor.

“I love that you can hold the photos in your hand. I got a bit disillusioned with digital photography,” he expressed. “The cameras need maintenance and you can improve them by hand – I love the satisfaction of using something I’ve made.”

Williams will be showcasing his exceptional work at the upcoming Artport festival in Portishead this September. His photographs serve as a testament to the enduring charm and timeless quality of vintage cameras, as well as the enchanting allure of capturing the world through a lens touched by history.

A journey through time and space, Williams’ photographs invite us to reflect on the evolution of photography and appreciate the craftsmanship of bygone eras. In an age dominated by digital technology, his commitment to preserving and revitalizing these classic cameras serves as a gateway to rediscover the joy and artistry of traditional photography.


Q: What type of camera did Simon Williams use to capture the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta?

A: Simon Williams used a Kodak Panoram, a camera that was designed in the 1890s but ceased production 30 years later.

Q: How did Simon Williams become interested in vintage cameras?

A: Williams became interested in vintage cameras after retiring from his teaching career. He purchased his first 19th-century camera five years ago and has since developed a passion for these timeless devices.

Q: What does Simon Williams enjoy about using vintage cameras?

A: Williams cherishes the tangible aspect of holding physical photos and the satisfaction of using cameras that require hands-on maintenance and improvement. He finds it more fulfilling than digital photography.

Q: Where will Simon Williams be exhibiting his work?

A: Simon Williams will be showcasing his work at the Artport festival in Portishead in September.