Happy National Camera Day!
Happy National Camera Day from everyone here at Camera Bits! In celebration, we put together this collection of stories of when our love for photography began, our first cameras and how this profound invention has impacted our lives.
We’d love to hear your stories as well! You can share them with us on social with the tags @camerabits and #NationalCameraDay!
When I was a kid, my dad, expressing dissatisfaction with the image quality produced by the Instamatic point-and-shoot cameras Mom was using, took the family one bright afternoon circa 1982 to a camera store, where we purchased our first high-quality camera: the then-new 35mm SLR Canon AE-1 Program. I recall it being a significant expense for us at the time, and I treated the camera with care. It was a great lesson that quality mattered, although, in practical terms, I think Mom was not entirely thrilled about now needing to manually focus!
People often say that their camera is a way to connect to the world around them, and that’s true enough. As I have traveled this path, I have come to believe that the real connection is a three-sided affair. My best photographs have a subject and a predicate, and the way I connect to both of those through my camera is the most rewarding. For example, when I am photographing a concert, what I really want to do is not show the musician on stage playing music, but how the musician and the crowd are reacting to each other. That is what makes an actual moment, rather than just a still-life that happened to be moving. The camera becomes the fulcrum for how I find balance in a seesaw world.
My favorite camera so far is the Canon Canonet G-III. It was born around the same time I was in the early seventies. We understand each other. These are mine:
Photographs are essential communication for me, so I always have a camera in my bag or pocket…usually my iPhone, but often my trusty Nikon D5100. My first relationship with a camera, though, started around age 2, when my grandmother gave me a circa-1975 Agfamatic 2000 Pocket to play with. I fell in love with the squishy-yet-clicky red shutter button, and the accomplishment I felt when I managed to push the sides all the way together and the camera snapped as it advanced the film (there was no film…I was 2). It was my favorite toy for years…even without film!
Cameras let me speak without needing to talk, help me to see what I didn’t know was there, and give me a medium within which to explore and create. And as technology advances and photography make its next leap, from digital to…whatever format will carry it forward, I cannot wait to see what those future cameras will be able to do, and what stories we’ll be able to tell with them!
I remember helping my mom organize our family photos as a kid. When I leafed through those photos, I was transported right back to the time when those pictures were taken, with all of those memories flooding back as if they happened the day before. It was like time travel in a sense.
I still love doing that now, and that’s what I love about the power of cameras: they allow us to capture moments and memories for years to come. Just as quickly as that shutter goes off, cameras can capture a moment that can bring a memory vividly back to life in an instant.
While photography has always been one means of artistic expression, I have a condition called aphantasia (which didn’t even have a name until a few years ago) which means I can’t create images in my head. So, for me, photos allow me to visualize people and places that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to “see” in my mind’s eye, which is especially important to me when it comes to old photos of family and friends. I sometimes wonder if that’s what really led me into photography in the first place, without me fully realizing it.
I have fond memories of my first camera, an old Pentax ME camera from the late 70s. Gosh that would be four decades ago now! I think it was 36 megapixels – I mean frames per roll 😉 First DLSR I got to play with was a Kodak DCS460 with a whopping 6 megapixels and no display to chimp with (and only $26K). That is one thing I like about photography – it is always changing and on the cutting edge of technology. Plus, the memories they create are invaluable.
I do enjoy writing and engaging in good verbal conversation. However, I find words can be restricting, and my tendency to overthink whatever it is I’m trying to say often results in what many call writer’s block (can you guess what happened as I was trying to write this?). This is one of the reasons why photography and visual communication are crucial, therapeutic tools for me. I can make a statement, express my emotions, and say what’s on my mind without confinement. Plus, art is a universal language that everyone understands.
I also enjoy a good story and am boggled by all the epic journeys my eyes have been on.
Photography has taken me to so many different places. Through my career, I’ve had jobs send me to places like Yankee Stadium for a college football game and to concert venues where I have shot my favorite bands. Photography has also impelled me to take detours and get lost whenever I take a road trip, as well as get up early from a night of camping to catch a sunrise over Crater Lake, or go to the beach late at night for some low-light shots, just to see what kind of photos might come out of it. I hope that photography continues to motivate me to see new things and places, as well as provides me with opportunities to do so.
I got my first camera back in the mid 70’s so I could take some shots of the motorcycle racers at Carlsbad Raceway in Southern California. It was a great way to get my buddies to come out and join the festivities. Once they saw how close you could get to the racers flying by, they had to join in on the excitement. But gloating over your vacations and re-living memories with family and friends is not the only reason to have a camera.
I am finding I am documenting more and more with my pocket cameras due to the ease of searching for these images on a computer. I once received an email from a military base with the following end note : “If there is no picture, then it never happened”.