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.