The first photographic images I remember making were of my friends. I may have made others, but these are the photos that I remember being first. It may be that these are also the earliest I have in my possession as prints and that helps me remember them, but regardless of them being the actual first or not they represent the beginnings of my index finger pressing a shutter release to record my history through a lens. In the beginnings that history was recorded on film and now it is recorded digitally. Has much really changed from those first images through today?
I was cleaning and organizing my office the other day and ran across several old cameras that I had kept in a box. That got me thinking of those early days. I then found those first images that I recall making, those off-centered recordings of days past. That first group of images were made up of my friends posing around my house. That began a life time of recording history through the lens of a camera.
Click here for a review of my past cameras
While my cameras are vastly different, the images really aren’t that much different from those first days. Technology has helped make it easier to produce certain photos, but the images that tell a story of the past are basically the same. In fact, many of the photos that I take today that really tell a story are taken with the camera on my phone. Often the moment defines the best photos more than the equipment. Having a camera at the right moment can offset having the best equipment at the wrong moment.
Looking over the many cameras I have used and owned, it is apparent I have a problem. Sure, some changes had to be made because of the availability of products but others were made because there was something bigger and better out there that I just had to have. I owned, and own today, some very expensive cameras, but there were many great photographs taken with my Canon AE-1 Program with in-expensive lens. I will admit that camera was a huge upgrade from the Kodak Instamatics and Brownie Hawkeye cameras however. Still, the timing was much more important than the camera.
I remember mowing lawns and babysitting to save up enough money for my first 35mm SLR camera. Prior to that I had to borrow my parent’s cameras. It took a long time to finally have enough money for that Canon AE-1 Program. I got it all saved and then handed the money to my father so that he could purchase the camera for me from Salt Lake City after work. I was so excited to get that camera in my hands.
Based on when that camera was released, I had to have been either 15 or 16 years old at the time. I loved that camera and it became a part of me for many years. That camera traveled with me to Europe and back, throughout the mountains of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, and many places in between. That camera worked like the day I bought it up until I sold it in about 1989. I sold most of my 35mm equipment to a professional photographer in Logan, Utah so that I could purchase a video camera. In the years before I sold my equipment I had many pieces of equipment and even had my own darkroom to develop film and print black and white photographs.
I did hang on to a few 35mm cameras and some lenses, but the majority of it was sold as reality set in that I was not going to be able to make a living from photography. It also helped that I had a new daughter and wanted to record videos of our new family. Making money as a photographer was not working out and graduating from college and having a family was demanding more concentration and time. I still took photos throughout the years, but didn’t really do too much with it for about 10 years. It really was when digital cameras became available at a reasonable cost that I got interested again and started putting more resources and time back in to the process of taking photographs.
I had done some sports photography in high school and in college. I worked on the yearbook staff in high school and took photographs for the athletics department my first few years of college. When digital cameras evolved so that digital SLR cameras took decent photographs and the cameras were down to a reasonable price, I decided to start taking more photos and my love of photography was rekindled. I purchased a Canon 10D and began taking lots of sports photographs, looking for opportunities to use my camera and satisfy my need to make images.
Digital cameras allowed me to do all of this without the cost of developing film and printing images. I also had a love of computers and the resources to utilize my computer system with the digital images to share my work with many people. I quickly developed a large following of those where were interested in the images I was producing, primarily of university athletes in football and basketball competitions.
My digital Canon EOS cameras have all blended together in a way. They all had different features and improvements, but overall they were the same camera. They all bring back the same basic memories of the more recent past in my picture taking career. Those old cameras are different, however. Each one seems to bring back different memories and feelings. Picking them up and touching them unlocks vast memories of times when I made images using those cameras. That is the reason I decided to make a mini-museum of my past cameras. I had most of them already in my possession, but I did have to go out and acquire several so that the museum was more or less complete.
The last one I acquired was the Canon T90. I was fortunate enough to find a fellow local photographer who was willing to allow me to purchase it for screaming deal. He too cherished that camera but decided he wouldn’t be using it again, so he sold it to me for my museum. I was lucky enough to find three of the others on eBay for very little money. I must admit that I was cheap in purchasing those old cameras as I did get mostly non-working examples of the pieces. It would be cool to be able to run film through them again and recreate the past, but the cost would be high and I was more interested in having the camera for purposes of remembering those old times and not recreating them. I now have a little space in my room where I can look at a particular camera and mentally be taken back in time. Each one brings a smile to my face and flashes of images running through my head.
Some of those memories include my mom driving me through the drive-thru at the Fotomat booth in the parking lot of the shopping center. Many involve activities surrounding the time the images were captured. Many hikes and vacations come to mind rapidly when I look at certain cameras and allow my mind to drift back in time. I can instantly move from the high Uintah Mountains, to the top of a cathedral in France, and end up looking over the largest city I have ever seen with two large, now fallen, skyscrapers in the background. Some memories, like the last mentioned, then merge into memories of historical events in history that changed those views forever so that no one will ever be able to duplicate those images. It is amazing how powerful images can be and the simple sight of the camera used to create the image can trigger all of those memories in an instant.
Some may think it silly to keep those cameras and have them on display. I didn’t think too much about it when I put most of those cameras in boxes many years ago, but that has changed recently. I don’t know how long I will keep the cameras out on display, but they seem to serve a purpose now and I like to wander in and look at them when I need an instant smile on my face and a quick vacation from the stress and problems of life today. It is also a good reminder that I need to pick up my camera to make more memories for the future. Some days I don’t know what is better, making the memories or remembering them in my mind. Either way, you can’t have one without the other. Now I just need to determine which camera to use for my next set of memories!