Um … Bailey’s?
Okay, I thought of a few slightly more serious things I could write about in response to this, and decided that photography was less embarrassing than my historical-slash-steampunk-slash-fantasy-chick-lit fascination. And I’m definitely not going to tell you about my internet/pop culture obsession.
I got a 35mm camera in 1986, for my 16th birthday. It was a lovely Minolta X-370 SLR film camera that I absolutely adored. It was easy to use, it fit in my hands nicely, and it took nice shots. I took all kinds of photos throughout high school and college – I’m pretty sure I annoyed most of my friends with my constant recording of our everyday events. I really need to find some of those pictures and scan them.
In college I finally took a few photography classes and developed my own black-and-white film, and after college took a class at a local arts school (where I was tragically unhip). I loved this. Loved spending hours in the darkroom, adjusting light and shadow, never knowing how the shot would appear until it magically materialized in the developing fluid. Then you had to swirl it around in the fixer, and the rinse bath … I think there was another step in there somewhere, too. The whole process was very ritualized, somehow soothing and yet exciting at the same time, because you never knew what the picture really looked like until you were able to turn the light back on.
I took my camera with me to Ireland in 2000 when I went on my honeymoon. On the day we flew home, we stayed in a hotel in London. While we were eating breakfast, our bags all packed up neatly and ready to go in our hotel room, somebody broke into our room and stole our valuables – our wallets (with passports in them!), my purse, etc. And my camera. (Not any of the film I had taken, though – that was all taken out of the camera bag and packed away in the special bags you put film in so the x-ray machines wouldn’t damage it. If that even actually was a danger – I always stored my film in those bags while traveling, anyway).
I was so upset.1
Shortly after that, it seemed like nobody had film cameras any more; it was all digital.
I still love taking photos – and I take even more than I did before, since I don’t have to pay for film or developing. I wonder, though, if my photo-taking process is thoughtful than it was with film. I can take as many shots as I want to and delete the ones I don’t like, rather than really be forced to take the time to set them up, think about the aperture and shutter speed, and all that (though I do have a digital SLR that I can use in total manual mode). And sometimes I wonder if it’s less of an art, somehow, to play with Photoshop on an already-existing image (not to mention the app effects available now, that can drastically change an image at the click of a mouse – although I do love them so!), than to dodge and burn on an invisible image forming on the photo paper.
And, of course, I miss the ritual of the darkroom.
1. We had no I.D. and no money, and it was two hours or something like that before we were supposed to be at the airport. Paul ran to the American Express place with our traveller’s checks info. I called the American Embassy or something – it was Labor Day weekend and nobody was there, though – somehow I got patched through to the American Embassy worker’s home phone, and basically she told me to get a letter from the police (whom we had called and who had come over and interviewed us), and tell the airline that she said we could go through. The airline reps at the airport could not have been more sympathetic, and we got on the plane with very little incident, actually. This was pre-9/11.