Jimmy Li is Shanghai’s Mr Minox
He takes photographs of his family and friends with the Minox in the way that others use their smartphones.
By Christopher Osborne
Jimmy Li is Shanghai’s Mr Minox. He estimates there are about thirty Minox owners in China. Of these ten are as obsessive about the camera as Jimmy. He carries the camera everywhere. He takes photographs of his family and friends with the Minox in the same way that others use their smartphones. Jimmy has also become famous within the Minox community for producing accessories to support the Minox. (More of this later).
To prove the point, he pulls two Minox cameras out of his jacket pocket. One is a Minox B and the second a Minox BL. “More experienced Minox aficionados choose the A or B models”, Jimmy explains. “The A and B models have no battery and no electronics. The C model has an electronic shutter. The shutter on mine broke”, Jimmy explains. I am looking at the expression on his face and it is clear that he is still mourning the loss of this camera.
Jimmy reaches back into his pocket and proudly produces a stack of postcard-sized black and white prints. These are beautiful portraits of his wife, his daughter, and occasionally a friend with the occasional shot of daily life recorded in a grainy but stunning snapshot aesthetic.
The prints have been made using a Minox enlarger in his apartment. The Minox is perfect for living in an apartment. Not only are these spy cameras small, but the developing tanks and even the enlargers are tiny too.
Jimmy began to plug the gap in Minox accessories and has spent considerable time designing products and finding suppliers that can manufacture in small quantities.
His first product was a splitter that allows 35mm film to be cut down for loading into cassettes to go in the camera. The Mark 1 version was released in 2012, and a year later the design was upgraded to a Mark 2 version which features a changeable standard Stanley/box knife blade. This is important because the blades do dull over time. Almost 300 of these units have been sold, and they can be purchased directly from Jimmy. See the link below.
He designed and sells vinyl negative sleeves that hold 9.2 mm film. His latest product is a 3D printed negative holder for people who wish to scan their Minox sub-miniature negatives.
For a while, Jimmy was selling brass film cartridges for the Minox range. These were discontinued because they were perceived as being too expensive. He points out that the parts were all cut on a CNC machine before being hand-assembled. Minox cartridges require hand adjustment to align the film correctly, and Jimmy still provides an adjustment service for both his own and original Minox cartridges.
In August Jimmy visited SilvergrainClassics in Bad Nauheim near Frankfurt. We have agreed to arrange some photowalks and other events based on the Minox camera. These will be announced in the New Year.
You can see more of Jimmy Li#s photography on instagram at @minox_riga_user and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Black & White images © Jimmy Li 2022. Colour images © Marwan el Mozayen 2022.
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