Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why photography and why not something else?

I don't really know the answer to that one? I guess I'm a pretty visual kind of person. I love color and plenty of it.
I was given my first camera by my grandmother and it was a Kodak 126 that took cartridge film. The film was really 35mm but with different sprocket holes, encased in a plastic drop-in cartridge. It was about as foolproof as possible. If the cartridge was removed prematurely then only one frame was truly lost. The photos were square and at that time (the 1970s) printed on stippled paper to about 3.5 inches square. 

The first photos I took have been lost in the mists of time. I remember taking a lot and my parents becoming quite agitated about the costs of film and processing. There was a kind of magic about taking a picture then months later seeing the images on paper and remembering the day.

Fast forward a few years and my mother gave me a Rollei 35LED camera. This was pure luxury. My first proper compact camera. I used that no end. Sadly though as it took mercury batteries, it is now a historical item that can't really be used. Mercury batteries went out of production many years ago.

I was hooked on photography and joined a photography club where we shot B&W film and printed the film in a little darkroom in the middle of the local YMCA. There, we used Praktika MTL3 cameras with screw-on lenses. That was great. I wanted more - ever more.

I did get my own screw mount camera but sold it quickly and bought a Pentax setup instead. That was fine until I went for a more modern camera - the Pentax Super A. That was where the problems started. The first model out of the box was broken and had to be exchanged. The exchange model also had a fault so that had to be sent off to be repaired. It still was unsatisfactory so I sold all the Pentax equipment and went for Nikon instead.

Using the new Nikon equipment I managed to earn some money for the first time with my cameras. It wasn't vast fortunes but it was enough to offset some of the purchase price. I remember saving for new lenses fastidiously. I would walk instead of catching a bus. I would skip lunch instead of eating in the college cafeteria. Each lens was purchased with sweat and suffering. Each lens had a sense of worth and pride. Those lenses kept their value too - even when the new-fangled autofocus things came in.

Roll on a few years and I was pressed to start a photography business, purely because I wanted to buy a digital SLR for myself. I'll draw a blank over the business and why a business that I never wanted in the first place was started. It didn't work out and I cannot really say that I was surprised. The only thing that surprised me was that I didn't lose more money than I did. I will say this - I did give it my best shot but could never get anybody to look at my work nor my website. There was just a total lack of interest from the public. There's just no way to make a disinterested public look up a website or look at a portfolio.

During the photography business, I'd been pressed to purchase everything that could possibly be of use. As soon as the pressure was off, I dumped the ridiculous business license. I actually waited two years too long to do that. The first year I thought that maybe just possibly if I changed the focus from family photos to commercial images - well, that didn't get any interest either. The local businesses were quite happy with lower quality images shot on their iPhones. The second year I was a little slow off the mark and only decided to dump the business license in March which meant that I hung onto it until December just in case a miracle happened.

So, the business license became history much to my great relief. I no longer had to file zero every month. I no longer had nasty letters demanding $2,500 of assessed tax if I actually forgot to file zero. Life became so much better. Slowly I began to enjoy photography again.

During the interminable 5 years of having the miserable business, I managed to write two books on photography. Those actually sell quite reasonably. When I wrote them, I considered any sale at all to be a vindication. As it is they are making quite a nice little income every year.

The equipment I amassed for the business - I've been selling that off as fast as I can find buyers. I dumped all of the studio equipment into a job lot. I think the guy got a real bargain. I was glad to be shot of it - I'd struggled to sell it for so long that I was all set to toss it in the dumpster when suddenly somebody showed interest. If only I can sell the ridiculous flashes that would be wonderful. They were something like $550 new and I'll be lucky to get $350 for them now. Most of them are still in their plastic wrap, having never been used.

I developed an interest in high-speed imaging and did reasonably well at it and even wrote a book. I'm now quite interested in images of the Milky Way. That's my next project. From the photography business I did learn one thing - I really prefer to photograph landscapes and technical subjects. I don't have the patience to photograph people.


  1. this picture would be beautiful blown up and over my couch