I was always interested in photography and got my first serious camera when I was about 18 years old—a 35mm, single-lens reflex Chinon with a compact body and three lenses that was a combination birthday/Christmas gift from my parents. I took to the craft immediately, enrolling in classes for it in college and winning a few awards in juried competitions, although I’m not sure why since I don’t really have the patience, sense of timing or the gifted eye that’s required to do it exceptionally well.
Still, as a hobby, and for a little while as a profession, it stuck.
In my early career as a journalist, I took pictures almost as often as I wrote, and it was useful skill to have when I was competing for jobs. My first job at a newspaper, just one year out of college, wasn’t as a reporter, but as the darkroom technician. I spent my nights in a tiny black room winding other reporters’ film onto developing spools, creating proof sheets and then huddling over trays of caustic chemicals the next morning hurriedly printing the editors’ picks in order to meet the press deadline.
I loved the work, and continued doing it even after I became reporter. In fact, I lugged my Chinon around with me for several decades, taking pictures of everything from auto accidents and sports stars to corporate executives and B-list Hollywood celebrities.
Digital photography made film-based photography seem outdated five to six years ago, and I eventually bought a starter digital camera, and then the Nikon D-60 that I use now. It’s a great camera, but it still feels awkward in my hands compared to the old Chinon. I’m getting better with it, though, learning its quirks and good qualities.
I kept the Chinon anyway, mostly because I couldn’t bear to throw my old friend away. Then a few months ago, gripped by the thought of de-cluttering my basement, I donated it to Goodwill. I hope some kid bought it and learned how to use it, but I suspect it’s sitting on a shelf collecting dust, like me and my silly memories.
As for photography…well, I believe that everybody ought to do it regularly because the act of making pictures can help you see the world instead of just looking at it.