I come from a family of photographers.
Both my father and his father were avid photographers. It seemed like there was always a camera around when I was growing up. In the early 70s, photography must have been expensive. Camera. Film. Developing. Prints. It couldn’t have been a cheap hobby. Still, I had two exceptional role models.
Grandmother must have snapped this one.
This picture was taken shortly after my grandmother
s funeral at Mt. Baker in Washington.
My dad’s father was quite the shutterbug. When we would visit him down in California, he and my grandmother would pick us up from the airport, and he always had a camera with him. Back in the 70s (and maybe even earlier) he had a dark room and equipment for enlarging color prints. Not black and white. Color. I remember this unsual machine with the color coded knobs. I never saw him use it, but his house was full of images on colorful mattes. Now, so many years later, I love the prints we still have. There is one of me fishing at sunset. My favorite is an early morning shot of misty swamp where we used to duck hunt.
My dad was even crazier with the camera. It seemed like his favorite thing to do was line all of us up facing directly into the sun and ask us to “Smile!” From that experience, I did learn that proper lighting was important to good photography. As I’ve gotten older and more proficient with a camera, I understand that facing midday sun is not the way to get happy pictures of your family. Try early morning light or evening light.
For a period of time, my dad took lots of slide photography. As a kid I loved the evenings when he would pull out the screen and projector and we would spend hours looking at slides. There were so many of them on his travels around Alaska. The images seemed so bright and alive. It was quite a family event to pull out the slide projector.
My first camera was a Kodak Disc camera. I can’t imagine why that didn’t catch on. I did take a lot of pictures with it. When I was moving a few years ago, I found a stack of those old prints. I seemed to be quite fascinated with taking pictures of my lego moon base as the astronauts that inhabited it. There was also a few fuzzy, blown out images of the TV documenting the high score I had in Activision’s Pitfall for the Atari 2600.
Eventually, my dad upgraded to a much more robust and automatic Nikon. Or Minolta camera. I ended up with his trusty Pentax, a camera I still have to this day. He told me he bought the camera in a pawn shop in Fairbanks, Alaska in the late 60s. It was a great camera. It accompanied me to college in Santa Clara California, and was the camera I used when I took a photography class.
I loved photography class. It was probably my favorite class in all of college. The professor made us all read a book called “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” It was a book about being more creative. I still have that book to this day, nearly 20 years later.
There is no experience quite like developing film and enlarging prints. That is one of the losses in this digital age. The removal of the film from the canisters in the pitch black. Filling the container with the chemicals. The anticipation of the images captured in black and white. Creating the contact sheet of the negatives. I spent quite a few Friday nights in the dark room developing prints. Watching the images slowly resolve themselves in the reddish light. And the smell of the chemicals!
With all this camera experience in my 41 years, it’s no surprise that I have become our family historian. I’m the one they all laugh at when I tell them to try the shot again with “less sky.”
So it is to honor my father figures and my love of creativity that I have embarked on this journey to take 365 photographs over the next year. It’s to bring back that creativity that was given to me in college, and to honor two great men who gave me a wonderful gift.