While cleaning up the basement this summer, I ran across some old negatives. Some of them were my Dad’s from the 1950’s and earlier. They reminded me that he was an excellent amateur photographer, and was thrilled to teach me the basics when I became interested. Dad’s prize camera was a 1954 Model 95a Polaroid. This was an expensive camera ($800 in today’s dollars) that Mom saved up for as a gift. We have many great family pictures taken with this camera.
My first pictures I ever took were with this camera when I was five or six-years old (see below). We were at my Grandma Keck’s house when I begged Dad to handle the camera. The camera was almost as big as I was. I hoisted it up, aimed it at my Dad’s concerned face, pressed the shutter, and waited for the picture to develop. It was blurry! Being the encouraging father he was, he carefully explained how to hold still before pressing the button. The next picture was perfect. I have that picture (see below) of my Dad’s concerned face accompanied by my sister on my wall. It’s still funny after all these years.
By the time I started to really get into photography as a teen, the film for the 95a (Type 42 – I don’t know why I still remember that) was phased out. I bought the last remaining roll at the drug store downtown and had a blast with it. Since then, this old camera has been a shelf queen.
For my first photo assignment as a freshman in high school, Dad unearthed his 1952 Ansco Viking folder camera. It was really a German-made Agfa Billy medium format camera that was scale focusing. My “assignment” was to take pictures of the high school football game. Not really understanding the disconnect between action photography and a 35-year-old folding bellows consumer snapshot camera, the night was almost a complete failure. The bellows had a light leak, the film was too slow, the light was too dim, my composition was well – more like decomposition. But I had fun!
My go-to camera at the time was a Kodak Instamatic-X, a 126 cartridge format snapshooter (see below). I can remember not understanding why my pictures wouldn’t come out like I envisioned them. But I kept shooting anyway. After my experience with the Ansco and the resurrection of the Polaroid, Mom and Dad could see I was becoming serious about this camera thing. For Christmas, they bought me a Minolta SRT-101 35mm SLR camera that I used until it fell apart in the late 90’s.
I shot for the school yearbook and newspaper, the local daily newspaper, and events through high school and early college. I almost chose photography as a career, but was offered a music scholarship in high school. That led to a career in audio and video production, which I don’t regret. Even though my profession allows me to express my creativity every day, it’s photography that allows my soul to speak.
My first (successful) picture. A concerned face and an unconcerned face.
My first camera – a Kodak Instamatic-X.
Your dad… holy cow, that’s definitely a “dad trying to manage the situation” look.
Somewhere on my blog you’ll find photos from my first roll of film, Kodacolor II on a Brownie Starmite II, summer 1976. But my first photograph was with my mom’s 126 camera, illicit, of a hotel room somewhere in Binghamton, NY. I was in huge trouble for wasting half the roll of film on gripping subjects like doorknobs and walls.
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