I love taking pictures. I love looking at pictures.
My brother and I used to pore over the box of photos my mom and dad kept of their families, often for hours. He is the holder of these boxes now, and keeps the additional boxes of golden-faded photos from our youth in the late ’60s and ’70s. My dad drafted scripts and we made silent movies, which he filmed on super 8, on the beach in summers or with the neighborhood kids when we were back in the city. I had various cameras as a teenager, like a vintage box camera that I carried around probably thinking it made me look cool (I don’t recall it ever worked) and one of those disk cameras that I used when I could afford film and processing. We always had a point and shoot around the house, like everyone did in the ’80s, that got used for parties or visits from distant family or the occasional trip; people didn’t photograph every little thing like they do now.
I bought my first “real” camera on my own, with money I’d carefully put aside while in my second year of college, in Chicago at a neighborhood shop that sold used cameras. It was 1987 or possibly ’88, and the camera was a Minolta X-700 with its original 50mm lens, in near-perfect condition (it would have only been a few years old at the time anyway). I loved this camera, but because I didn’t really know what I was doing I often ended up with over-exposed, poorly framed images. I kept trying, although film and developing were often too expensive for my student budget.
I used the Minolta only occasionally through the 1990s when graduation, “real” jobs, then marriage, then two babies and a general chaos of life became my norm. I forgot, or didn’t have time, to create. I nearly stopped writing for myself. We photographed the important stuff with the Minolta when the kids were little, and later with a point and shoot digital, but I don’t think we have many images in hand from those first digital years. And then poof, 20 years went by and kids moved on and a little glimmer of remembering turned into a spark and I bought myself a digital SLR camera and found the world opened up again.
I’m using that same digital SLR
three four years later, although it’s older technology and the friends I met in workshops and classes when I first started using it have all moved on to upgraded cameras. I upgraded lenses, and I am trying not to feel like I need to be using the latest model to be the best photographer I can be. I hear that it’s not the gear but the photographer (probably more often said by the shooter with ample funds), but it’s hard not to be envious. In any case, beyond the digital (which is a Canon Rebel T3i), I am shooting film now with a Pentax K1000 and two Olympus Pen half-frames (one of the earliest Pens, and a Pen EE3). I comb eBay for film cameras weekly and admit my collection will likely grow, at which time I’ll update this post*. The Minolta is in my son’s hands right now, whose creative and stark images are making me proud.
I am a writer and editor; I best express myself in words. But I am equally drawn to photography as a form of expression. It isn’t mine, the image–I am capturing it, sometimes manipulating it to present an idea, a thought, a mood, at times an adjunct to or expression of something I’ve written. It’s an interaction between me, a person or thing or nature, the camera, the film, the output. A process in which I am still, and hopefully will always be, learning.
I take classes and workshops wherever I have the time and can afford to. I think it’s important to learn from other people, but also to explore your own voice and not to get too bogged down in the rules or in comparing your work to other photographer’s work, which can dampen the creative process.
Oh. I should add this. If you want to use any of my images, please ask. I’m friendly.
*Update, September 2016: I missed the Minolta X-700 so much that I added one back to my arsenal, although it’s in the shop getting a workup. And a Minolta SRT 102 is on its way to me as I write this update–I can’t wait to try this one out. Right now I’ll admit I’m a bit un-enamored with digital. The whole process of using film is just making me beyond happy at the moment.
More updates, November 2016: The X-700 is still in the shop, mainly because I haven’t been in town to pick it up. The SRT 102 is heavily in rotation and I’m digging it. So much so that I bought a 28-70mm zoom lens (made by Minolta, fairly bad reviews, but it was inexpensive and in great shape) and a fixed-focus 135mm lens–older, also Minolta but also in terrific shape and quite inexpensive.
Even more updates, March 2017: Adding to the arsenal with plastic cameras (Lomo Sprocket Rocket, Holga 120) and a borrowed-from-my-son Mamiya 645 1000s, which eventually I will have to part with as I’m sure he will want it back because it is just fantastic. I’m in a class so I have access to a darkroom and shooting black and white film like there’s no tomorrow.