I’ve always had an interest in photography.
As a kid I was fascinated by my father’s cameras, a Minolta 35mm and an old Polaroid. The Polaroid was kept in a china cabinet my dad used for showcasing his personal treasures. The cabinet was just outside my bedroom, so I had to pass it everyday on my way to the kitchen or bathroom. Often I would stop, especially if no one was around, to look through the glass at the contents of the case and in particular the camera. I imagined in my head the Polaroid’s inner workings and how the chemicals in the film could make a photo appear in less than a minute when the PhotoMat took almost two days or longer to do the same job.
I was about 9 years old when my Nana passed away and I inherited her 1970’s Kodak Instamatic X-15. It was a good camera, small enough to fit in your coat pocket and from a time when you didn’t need batteries for your camera. The X-15 was a fixed focus 43mm ƒ/11, with a 2-speed shutter capable of 1/45s or 1/90s, took 126 film size cartridges, and required a four-sided disposable flashcube to take pictures indoors. I used it as much as I could afford to and still have some of those old pictures around somewhere.
At some point in my pre-teens I came into possession of a 1950’s era Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and flash. I’m not certain anymore where or how I got the camera, but I was tremendously proud to own it. Fortunately, from a older book I found at the library about photography that had a large section dedicated to Brownies, I had found that despite the camera having been designed for 620 film you could re-spool 120 film onto the 620 spools I had found left in the camera. The 120 was a little more readily available and cheaper than the 620 in suburban 1988, so I saved up and bought some of the 120 film from the pharmacy near my house that carried a nice selection of film supplies and had a knowledgeable owner. I was lucky to have talked to the guy at the pharmacy, because he told me that there was a customer that used to come in with a Brownie Hawkeye, like mine, that was able to use the 120 in his camera as-is. I went home and tried the 120 without re-spolling it and with a little margin of error the spool seemed to fit. Unfortunately, I was only ever able to shoot the one roll of film through the camera before an accident rendered it unusable. Some men working on the apartment we were living in had bumped into the shelf the Brownie was on and caused it to smash to the floor. The flash was pretty well ruined, but it was the crack in the Bakelite casing of the camera housing that ultimately sealed its doom. I was pretty upset about it, in fact don’t recall if I ever even developed the film after that day.
My first year in high school I decided forgo Art class and instead enrolled in the Photography program since they conflicted with each other in my schedule. It was a great decision; the photography course & teacher was amazing, plus the year away from the Art program put me into a group my sophomore year that was a much better match for me. My dad trusted me to borrow his Minolta 35mm, along with his handful of lenses and other stuff in his camera bag, for the course. I learned a tremendous amount from the class, the instructor, and the other students that used the lab. What I didn’t learn in class I discovered the only real way any photographer does, by getting out in the world and shooting as well experimenting back in the lab. Following the completion of the Photography course I had to return my dad’s camera, but I assisting in the classroom and in the school photo lab on & off throughout my remaining years there which gave me access to the couple of camera bodies that the school had as loaners.
Throughout the rest of high school I came to own a few cheap 35mm cameras, the kind you got for free with a magazine subscription or something. I even had a Kodak Disc camera, it may have been a 3600 or something similar. The disc camera was something I had found in the parking lot the day after one of the outdoor graduation ceremonies that were held down the block from my home. I made some kind of an attempt to locate it’s owner, but I didn’t really have much to go on with only the four crowd shots from the ceremony that I found on it’s negative when I had it developed. My new found little disc camera certainly wasn’t designed for the art of photography with it’s 15mm ƒ/2.8 lens shooting at 1/100s to a tiny 8mm x 10mm negative, but it became my truly pocket-sized standby. In a age before cellphone cameras I almost always had a tiny camera on me to capture a moment.
Sometime around when I started college I picked up a Canon AE-F SLR at an estate sale. Along with the camera came a Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.8 and a Star-D 28mm ƒ/:2.8 lenses. It was a great camera and the lenses, short of a telephoto, were more than enough to get around with. Though I shot a few things for my projects in school my program didn’t really involve any still photography. I majored in Multimedia Design & Tele-Production with a minor in Computer Programing. Being the very early years of digital and with the focus of my studies being rooted quite firmly in the digital world, analog photography was already beginning to lose it’s hold on me. I still shot a roll here and there but, some of those rolls are still kicking around in my old camera bag, having never been developed.
My last year in college brought with it the birth of my first son, and with his arrival came my first digital camera. It wasn’t a very good camera, at only 3 megapixels the only clear shots we got out of it were outside in the midday sun. We soon upgraded to a Sony 5 megapixel point and shoot, and proceeded to take, what must have been, thousands of pictures of our new little boy. We moved from Massachusetts to Arizona and I hauled along the old Canon and the digital point and shoot cameras, but we upgraded again when my mom sent us out a super compact Canon 11 megapixel pocket camera. The became the family’s staple camera, it’s more than capable to capture the moments and even shoots a decent print.
It wasn’t until recently, working as a music journalist, that led me to finally replacing my old SLR that I hadn’t touched in years. I needed something reliable, along with a few lenses that could capture fast moving action in low light conditions during a concert, as well as take great portrait shots in the interviews and backstage, but also didn’t look as ridiculous as when I showed up to cover Primus with that Canon pocketcam. Few things scream, “I don’t belong here!” more than being in the photo pit in front of thousands of screaming fans and whipping out your family’s Canon Cybershot. Les Claypool looked down at me while perched on a speaker monitor pounding out intense bass lines and his face melted from Rock-n-Roll swagger to more of a “Hey little fella’, are you lost?”
These days I shoot a Nikon D7000 and have a nice little collection of lens for most occasions. I love my camera and most of my lenses, but more than anything I love getting out shooting. The equipment I use will come and go, but my desire to capture and share an image will always be with me.