i guess that it was my grandpa, bud, who got me really excited about cameras. he was an entrepreneur, a “jack of all trades,” and owned many businesses over his lifetime. one of his businesses was a photography studio and film processing lab. of course, that was before my time, but he always had the love of capturing the moment and keeping it forever.
my grandpa always had a camera handy. he shot both stills and “moving pictures.” he preferred candid shots to anything posed and i think that’s probably the way i developed my preference as well….because face it, a photo of your dad with his “fat roll” exposed at a party is way more interesting than him posing with a fake smile. my grandpa was able to capture the essence of who people were and what made them tick.
my goodness, that man had a huge camera collection. i wish that i knew what happened to them all, i know that i have a few of them in storage, and have used them to make some photographs. i used to be so fascinated by looking at them. he would go through each one and tell me the type of camera it was, what type shots it was good for, what kind of film it used, and how old it was.
my grandpa entrusted me to pick them up, hold them, look through the viewfinder, and even take my own photographs. my dad didn’t like that, but my grandpa, being his father…overrode him. i think that i must have been about five, when my grandpa began buying me a camera, each year for my birthday. i ended up with such a neat collection of those “birthday” cameras.
i have about ten different kinds of kodak instamatics, at least three different types of polaroids, a bencini comet, a smena, a yashika, and a disc camera. along with all of those cameras, generally came film, batteries, and flashcubes/flashbars. i guess that i was pretty fortunate, because my grandpa really took an interest in seeing my photos and encouraging me along the way.
his step-daughter, c***l, used to work in one of those little, drive-up fotomat booths. he used to take my film to her and paid for it to be developed and printed. of course back then, i had to “cool my jets” and wait for about a week to be able to see my finished product. my grandpa and i would pick-up the photographs, then he would take me for ice cream, and there we would sit together going through my photos.
my grandpa always knew how to make me feel special and important. we bonded over lots of things and shared many interests. he gave me critiques, pointers, and ideas for photo “trickery.” more than anything, he was able to help me be able to express myself, to be seen and be heard, to have an opinion and make a statement, without ever even having to open my mouth. (he knew that in my household, children were to be seen and not heard.)
after my summer of 2007 darkroom photography class, i was in an antique store one day, saw a brownie camera from the 1930’s, and purchased it on a whim. i bought it because i liked how it looked, it reminded me of my grandpa, and i decided to start collecting vintage cameras, to decorate with. somewhere along the way, i accumulated five different kinds of older cameras, from the 1930’s – 1940’s.
in my collection were: graflex speedgraphic, spartus twin reflex, brownie, ansco shur shot, and a minox riga. after talking with my friend, we decided to visit blue moon camera and machine, in portland, oregon, to see if we could get film for any of the cameras. the staff at blue moon, were very knowledgeable and helpful, they had film for all of the cameras, and showed us how to load it into each.
so, my friend and i, had film for two cameras apiece and we went out very excitedly, into the world to recreate the look and feel of a different era. we really didn’t know what we were going to end up with, but i think that i was very anxious to capture, “the ghost in the machine.” after we shot the film that we had, we took it back to blue moon, where they developed the film and printed the photographs. getting them back, was just like christmas!
yes, the mix was about 50/50…duds versus winners, but to me they were all marvelous. they made me feel very nostalgic and very respectful of the process…film to development, to negatives, to printing and all that’s involved. i don’t have all of the photos from that time period, but i do have a few with me on my drive…the rest of them are in storage, but this will give you an idea of some of what i was able to capture…what i shot.