Friday, June 12, 2009

I Am A Camera

Few things in life give me a better sense of satisfaction than good photographs. Antique images particularly fascinate me, and recently it has a lot to do with my Master's thesis adviser's book and my assistantship in a course on American Visual Culture. This fascination also likely has something to do with the longstanding tradition, since Eastman revolutionized point-and-click technology, that anyone can take a picture. Attend any art fair, and you will see stall after stall of flowers and rocks, and you will think "I could do better."

(my grandma feeding chickens)

And probably you could. With an eye for shot composition and now through the miracle of Photoshop, everyone is going pro — Photoshop's efficacy in this is debatable, since although undoubtedly easing the process, it perhaps cheapens truly excellent photography. Suffice it, something there is that doesn't love a digital camera: maybe for the same reason I would rather frame and hang my own picture of a mossy tree stump, or better yet, something actually interesting, I have come to fetishize film cameras. And since anyone can take a picture, you'd think my walls would be covered with prints. Yes?


You see, I have a camera curse. I'm sure this started during youth, when it seemed that every Christmas or birthday, members of my extended family would give me cameras. Not that they might have thought I would like one, but probably because they won it in a raffle, or got it as an office gift, and just needed to unload it. I don't remember other cousins getting cameras, but I thought it was destiny. But no. My brother, never prodigal with his allowance money, saved and developed (no pun intended) a hobby of collecting antique cameras. He now has his own darkroom and develops his own film. Maybe I should have become a doctor first with a cathartic hobby second, instead of someone who has tried to make a career out of a cathartic hobby with a doctorate.

But this curse. No kidding: my brother let me borrow his fantastic film camera during a trip to Salem for research. I learned the buttons, the shutter speeds, the f-stop, the modes, gears, and everything. What I didn't learn was how to load the film: after several days of photographing landmarks and gravestones, I learned that the film never took up on the reel. I had to go back and do it all again. This time it overshot and ripped the end of the film out of its canister. I cried when I opened the film door and an unwanted ticker-tape parade of undeveloped, now ruined images came cascading out. And that's not all: one of my cameras, which I had prepared and packed, that I let my parents use for our family trip to Arizona, was also improperly loaded. No family Christmas photo by the Grand Canyon or the Camel Back Mountain or the red rocks of Sedona this year: she's done it again. My first digital camera took a tipsy lurch off a bookshelf (why was it stored all the way up there, you ask? Because I'm an idiot.) and the last image it captured was a streak of white light and a blurry grasping Me that well represented its death.

(go to the light, little darling)

Today, the curse is broken! My mom found me a used digicam on Shop Goodwill that arrived in the mail. Completely functioning, with memory card, two batteries, power source, and... wait. USB connector cord? Son of a bitch...

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