January 26, 2022

Barcelona: Film, Desires and Olympus XA-2

The Olympus XA-2 from 1980s – Photo Diary

I finally landed in Portugal, after sleeping like a baby on the plane, when it was time to throw in some film. My genius self had convinced me that for this trip I would only use film. Nothing else.

Out of my small pocket I grabbed my newest win: the Olympus XA-2. Very inconspicuous, perfect for stalking other humans as I continued my travels. Like this man above looking for his flight on the board. Or maybe for his missing wife. For real, this camera made me feel so much more comfortable with street photography.

Back-story: My spontaneous 19 day trip to Europe from NYC (who does that…? me) came alive out of the pure desire to see my friends after many years. I planned and booked the tickets within a few days of asking my friend Mira, “Hey are you busy next week?

You should definitely not be surprised to see me on your doorstep if I say I’m coming. I will show up.

I feel the most free when I follow my desires, something that we often push away in our day-to-day lives. Desire doesn’t have to mean big, spontaneous trips. It means to listen to yourself and do what makes you happy. One of those desires has always been film photography and the many cameras that exist within that world. 

And spending too much time trying to find deals for amazing cameras.

(There was a woman beside me here who I hoped didn’t feel weird with me pointing the camera in her direction.)


The best kind of buy is always a cheap-but-valuable buy.

That was me when I won this tiny Olympus XA-2 in my first online live auction (alongside a bunch of other random crap that they threw in). In my mind, a point and shoot isn’t as great as a manual camera… so I didn’t expect much. Probably nothing. But I bought it for $30 anyway because I can’t control myself with a good deal. 

I got in my car and began driving for an hour to the tiny auction house where I had to pick up my box of treasures. In the middle of driving on the long stretch of country road, I kept asking, “Why do I do this to myself,” I tend to make things difficult: instead of shipping, let’s drive. Instead of not buying a camera, let’s add more to the collection

Despite all that I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of trying something new.
And as any normal human does, I took it on an adventure to Barcelona, Spain

Tapas. Blurry like my vision that evening.


Together with my friend Mira, I spent my days in the city wandering and taking time for myself to let go.

Letting go of the strong grip that has a hold on you after a year of working on projects: what’s next to accomplish. It’s a modern, hustle-culture disease to believe we have to constantly be “on”. Over-thinking and over-creating. 

Instead, I got to see a classic Catalonian Castell. Where people climb each other to create massive human towers. I got to climb on top of my friend (nearly destroying her back by accident). I ate tapas and practiced my Spanish, even having a conversation in a plaza with a lovely lady while I drank my coffee. I met a person on the beach who told us this insane personality game that I carried with me for the rest of the trip. I did a strange yoga that left me speechless in a room full of 50+ year old Catalunyan women. 

Mira and I walked the streets talking about life, love and desire. Desire again. Always conflicted by obligation to either work or money. We’ve been conditioned to override our desires.

Rent. Work. Tired. No time. No knowledge. It’s bad. I can’t.

We need to practice our desires. Not just have them sit in the back of our brains.
To practice desire in life is to experience things that give you joy (with or without a lot of cash)

The world is so digital that moving the body, taking risks, doing the ‘crazy’ spontaneous trip, picking up the camera, creates such a wonderful flow of energy that outshines anything else for me. It’s why I’m not afraid to say YES in a world that we are often told NO. 

Because you can’t $buy$ once-in-a-lifetime moments, like when I met a stranger on the Barcelona beach who told me my personality using a cube. Or wrongfully lost my flight back to NYC. Yup.

It’s difficult to do everything we love in life because we are constantly told that having money and earning money is more important than ourselves. We only celebrate when there’s an occasion. We buy when it’s necessary. There’s always some reason waiting for us to NOT experience joy. But I want you to feel empowered to do what you desire.

That even though money helps, it isn’t the thing that completes you as a person.

In black and white.

The Film Curious Consensus: Ridiculously powerful and Tiny

The Olympus XA-2 is fully automatic except for the ability to change its focus by using a zone-focus system of ranges. Far away, medium, and close (to put it simply). Point and shoots have never been my go-to cameras because I like having the chance to decide what I want. Automatic isn’t as fun for me like focusing a lens with my hands or figuring out the exposure by eye.

But I was wrong. This camera changed my entire trip for the better.

I never have felt so free to take photos whenever, however, wherever. This camera fits inside the palm of my hand, and my hands are small. It’s extremely beautiful and sleek in design as well, so it never screamed “CAMERA!” when I pulled it out of a pocket. 

Isn’t the point of creating is to create? When did we begin to put labels on if something is good enough to photograph, mold or film? This camera reminded me to enjoy what my eye sees without doubt. 

Pros: Sleek design, fast, extreme portability to anywhere you want, well-made. LIGHT.
Good conversation starter. Good for street photography 👀

Cons: If you forget to zone focus, blurry images. No built-in flash (separate attachment).
VERY sensitive shutter-release can cause accidental images. 

Film stocks used: ProImage100 and Ilford HP5.