I don’t collect old cameras, I collect old cameras that mean something to me.
It began with a Kodak Vest Pocket Model 8 which came from an old friend who thought I might like it. He gave it to me in return for taking photos of his turtles. It was in perfect condition and it looked neat on my entertainment center. A few months later my dad found his Aunt Catherine’s Polaroid Model 80A in the basement. It was a pretty popular model in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it was the same model camera used by Mary Moorman who captured some of the photos of the Kennedy assassination.
Then came my grandfather’s Crown Graphic, a camera that was not only beautiful but had immeasurable meaning to me. This was the camera he held, that he learned on, that he shot with.
Kim suggested one day we put up shelves for the cameras. We could add some old photos of our grandparents, and this great one I have of my mother and father on a snowmobile. They were young and happy – a time I wouldn’t know, not because of their happiness but because of their youth. When we were done, it looked great except for the one piece I felt was missing.
So finally, one day, I asked my mother for her old camera.
I can’t think of a time I knew my mother without her camera. She carried it to every function, every trip, every day at the beach, or zoo, or whatever museum we were going to explore. It was always right there in her “Kenya bag”.
What I remember most though, was not being able to touch it. Partially out of fear of breaking it – but mostly because mom said not to. Her camera was always there and always just out of my reach. I did however lay my fingers on the strap. It always seemed to swing in the breeze when she wasn’t using it, off the picnic table or from the edge of the breakfront in the dining room while we all ate Thanksgiving dinner. Printed along the length of the strap was a rainbow, a playful nod to my mother’s hippie days perhaps.
And when that strap wasn’t dangling in the air where I could touch it before mom saw it me, it was around her neck and that camera was to her eye.
Through that camera came not only amazing images, but also the photographic record of my family. All of my sister’s dance recitals, my brother’s football games, trips, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries, and everything else that fills page after page of our albums.
So now a simple old Canon AE-1 sits comfortably on my shelf, in quiet, restful retirement.
Enjoy your retirement little guy … you and that rainbow strap earned it.
This was a weekend of gifts.
Saturday was clean out day. My parents and I are cleaning out and fixing up the basement of the house, getting a new drier, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc (To emphasize the work involved.) On Saturday morning, a dumpster was dropped in front of the house and by Saturday night, it was full. Dad served the cold beers all day, Mom took the kids out and I had a few great friends to help me accomplish the rest.
We worked through the day, and by the time we were done, my kids had returned and were finished with what they had to do in my apartment. A secret, of some sort, or at least that’s what I led them to believe. See, I turn 35 this week, and since I had my kids this weekend, we were celebrating. I got a crown to wear, pizza and beer, and some really cool presents, but the best part was that all the people I really love were there with me. Its all I really wanted for my birthday.
Sunday me and the boys headed out on a mission, we were in search of the ocean.
When Jackster and I crossed the GWB a few weeks ago, we watched the Hudson river float by, and I began to tell him about messages in bottles floating in the sea. His eyes turned big and he asked if we could do that. So Sunday morning he and I sat at the table and we wrote out notes, that gave his name, my email address, and the request to contact us when the note was found. We wrapped the bottles up in tape and drove off to Sands Point. The three of us stood on the beach and tossed the bottles we made into the current with the highest of hopes. Jack and James threw pebbles after them, and I watched them bob up and down in the waves until they had disappeared from view. I told Jack that I couldn’t see them anymore and he said “Awesome…” and went back to throwing rocks. Yeah, I know it’s a 50 50 chance they’ll ever be found, but hey, we can hope right?
We left the beach and explored the rest of the preserve – itself a gift from the original owners to the public to be enjoyed for the beauty it is. We found a nice quiet little spot on the side of a pond and the three of us played, pretended to fish and camp out. It was a beautiful gift, the gift of time alone with my boys.
I regrouped with my mom in the basement to survey the cleanup after I brought the boys back to their mother. My mom and I had already been to home depot to look at new lighting and a new dryer, and to be honest, I really just wanted to go relax. I was contemplating feigning a heart attack to get away from her when she finally said, “Here, you have this.” and handed me a dusty old metal box.In an instant, my heart stopped when I opened it. Inside was a precious gift, something I never expected to have, and something I’m still so childish about, that I have it sitting in the desk next to me, as if me being away from it would make it disappear again.
My grandfather’s camera.
It’s a Kodak Graflex and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen simply because I know he held it in his hands, his eye looked through it.
Then she said to me “He’d be so proud of your photos.” and I couldn’t think of a thing to say.
I never met James Killeen, but my whole life I’ve been told how much I’m like him. When I took up photography the deal was complete. He was a photographer, self taught, and more talented than I could ever hope to be. I used to sit with my Grandmother and make her tell me stories of the man in the self portrait with the fedora and the smoke curls circling around his head. When the time came, I named my first born son after him in the hopes that maybe he’d be able to capture some of the essence and spirit I had only heard about in all those family stories.
So the 65 year old camera sits here now, next to my Nikon D90.
Maybe they’re sharing stories. Maybe my D90 is telling it about the day we had and the Graflex is responding, “oh yeah, that’s nothing compared to the day’s we’re gonna have.”
Until I get the Graflex working, here’s some shots from today…