© 2004 Greg Anderson, All Rights Reserved
Photography is a wide-ranging
field that engenders passion in its practitioners, and like all great
forms of expression creates opinions formed through experience and reflection.
In its early days one of the great debates was: Is Photography Art?
This was the subject of many essays and heated discussions among players
and spectators. Today, issues such as film vs. digital, format choices,
the validity of computer generated images, photography as exploitation
or revealer, and even the merits of ink jet vs. silver prints cause
similar debate. We are opening this department up to readers, manufacturers,
and retailers--in short, everyone who lives and breathes photography
and who has an opinion about anything affecting imaging today.
Here's how to get involved: write us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or send us a letter with a proposed topic and a synopsis of your idea.
Once approved, we'll ask you to send us about 500-1000 words on
the subject chosen. The idea here is not to push any product or wave
any flag, but to create discussion about photo and imaging topics of
the day. We reserve the right to edit whatever you send in, although
we will never edit intention or opinion but only for length and, hopefully,
for clarity. We reserve the right to publish your work on our web site
as well, so you can join the archives and be a resource for opinion
for years to come.
So, get thinking and writing and share your Point of View.
I was never more intent. The
sound of people visiting, the noise of holiday dinner being prepared,
presents under the tree, and the movement of furniture as tables and chairs
were arranged to accommodate all the people. My uncles moved around the
scene, holding their Argus C3s to their eyes, and then I'd hear
a pop as a flash bulb went off. If I hurried, I could be there in time
to see them grab the burned flash bulb with a handkerchief, pop the release
on the flash gun, and then drop the bulb into a nearby ashtray. Never
into the wastebasket with the danger of fire! There would be muffled curse,
under the breath, when someone burned his hand in the process.
On the Fourth of July we went to Spearfish Park. A stream ran past the
park where cousins played. You could stand on the rope bridge, connecting
the two banks, bouncing and swaying it to make people shriek and hang
onto the sides. At a nearby fish hatchery you'd enjoy watching the
different sizes and species of trout swimming under the ducks and geese
in the ponds. The nearby picnic tables groaned under the load of farm
food. After you ate your fill it was photo time. First the grandparents
and then the brothers and sisters would stand together in one group for
a photo, then the wives, husbands, and children.
When the slides were returned, the Argus or Kodak projector would come
out, the screen would be raised or the bed sheet hung, and we had a slide
show with some people sitting on the sofas, others on the floor. The smoke
would rise from the projector bulbs; the wrinkles in the bed sheet would
ripple the images and Kodachromes would be projected, usually upside down,
backward, or sometimes both, creating unintentional hilarity. The projectionist
would get more upset, trying to get the slide in right, until the inevitable,
"Well you do it!" We would see again the memory of that holiday.
How could anyone not want to stop time like this? At the age of 8, I cajoled
my father into an Ansco plastic 127 format camera. I hunted my subjects
at every family vacation and reunion and then took my film into the pharmacy
and got back those little black and white prints. Mounting them into my
Woolworth's print album, crossways and kitty-cornered with little
hilarious captions, to me anyway, that I was sure everyone would love.
What cousin, now in his 40s or 50s, would not enjoy a picture of himself
as a child, bleary eyed and waking up, with the caption, "Got up
on the wrong side of the bed?" Or a favorite aunt who would love
to see a photo of herself getting her hair cut and permed by my grandmother
on the porch of the house back in 1959.
In college, I became reacquainted with photography on a whole new level.
A friend of mine was a teaching assistant; he had a key to the science
lab and the darkroom. Saturday afternoons we would take a roll of Tri-X
film and go for a walk in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, or Moorhead, Minnesota.
I would watch him use his Mamiya Sekor 1000 DTL on people and buildings,
and then evenings we would go into the darkroom to develop the roll and
I entered into a 3-year apprenticeship
with him, buying my first and second cameras, a used Pentax H1a and a
new Ricoh Singlex TLS with Vemar, Vivitar, and Lentar lenses. I used one
camera body for 35mm color, and the other for black and white. I learned
time exposures, nature shots, architecture, and people portraits. With
the camera, I met people, extended my relationships, and learned that
the little viewfinder defined and limited my vision and at the same time
increased my visual communication skills.
One group of photos that I have are from my mother's family, with
some being over 130 years old. My father's photos begin with his
grandparents in the 19th century, his mother's photos of him in
1921, going through The Depression, and showing his service in World War
II. Life comes into focus from 100, 50, 30, and 10 years ago: family members
now deceased, cousins playing together, children then who have their own
children now. Images include favorite cars, long ago sold or traded, and
vacations, like Himalayan expeditions to a nearby camping site. All of
these memories come courtesy of a 19th century invention called the camera.
My sister purchased a Canon AE-1, and took classes in black and white
and color photography as part of her studies in media. She traveled to
India and Japan, creating slide shows on local culture and history. My
mother, sitting at her kitchen window and looking at her bird feeder,
tried to take pictures of the various birds that landed there on a winter's
day. My father photographed with his Instamatic 704 and created a family
archive of slides.
My older son, a chemical engineer dabbles in digital photography. He creates
computer files of his family, vacations, and friends, while my middle
son, a civil engineer, photographs vacations and special events in his
life with one-shot and digital video cameras. And my daughter sketches,
supplementing her drawings with an occasional black and white photo, courtesy
of Dad's old cameras and chromogenic film. She thinks digital is
a waste of time. We now have new types of equipment, creating visual associations
with options never seen before.
I shoot and develop 12-15 rolls a year, photographing less intently, but
more slowly, seeing things for the simple pleasure of looking. The labs
have taken over my own developing and I rely more on computer prints.
Except for these changes in tools, photography remains what it always
has been for me, a way to enjoy the community of generations before me,
to teach me to communicate more effectively in life as well as in my photographs,
and to have a lovely treasure trove of visual memories.
By the way, I am building a collection of cameras, some used by my relatives
going back to the 1920s and some Pentax, Ricoh, and Yashica cameras I
first used in college. Does anyone know where I can get a good shooter
condition Pentax H1a? It's the one I am missing. Oh, I need the
clip on the light meter, too.