“At last, my arm is complete again.”
Vanessa, detail. (Photograph © Chris Boyd)
Yeah, I’ve finally succumbed. My ancient Canon EOS has a half-finished roll of film in it from god knows how long ago. Several years doubtless. Its battery is long dead. The camera is dusted with, er, dust and its soft case has been used to store and transport CDs -- gosh what a dinosaur I’ve become -- for three or four years at least.
My film of choice, from my teens, is no longer even manufactured. Vale Kodachrome 64, which I used to shoot with the meter set to 80 ASA to increase the colour saturation in the trannies. (I wonder what percentage of that last sentence will make sense to someone born twenty years after me? Any of it?)
My first serious camera was a Pentax SP1000. Manual. No frills. If the battery was flat, every single function still worked except for the light meter. (A needle in the viewfinder.) Exposure compensation? Easy! Turn the aperture ring or change the shutter speed. The SP1000 didn’t even have a hot-shoe. But it had one of the most beautiful bits of glass on it I’ve ever used. A screw-mounted f2.0 55mm slightly-longer-than-standard lens. Pin sharp. Great contrast. Great definition. A perfect focal length, especially for portraiture. (50mm sucks. I never really understood why it caught on.)
I bought it at 15. A couple of years later it occurred to me that I bought the SLR the very same month that I started keeping a diary. (Which I did, as y’all know, for 25 years.) At 17, I was determined to become a pro photographer. (Hell, I’d even had a photograph of the Harbour Bridge published in a national magazine! Publication fee? $4!! Yes, my dear, they did have dollars and cents back then.) But I was an arty romantic, and not cut out for a career in advertising, which RMIT seemed to promise. Their motto? “If you can’t sell it, don’t print it.”
Given the number of photographs I’ve had ‘stolen’ [i.e. used without permission, credit or payment] over the years -- even back then I’d seen my own photographs reproduced with the name of the subjects diligently printed underneath -- that motto seemed a bit limiting. [Incidentally, the most recent copyright theft was by The Age, fer fux sake. Great example they’re setting. And I’ve had many photographs published by The Age and Financial Review, with credits, since the mid 1990s... so they can’t say they don’t know me!]
Though it, too, is long abandoned, my diary writing was the one place where I would find myself in the presence of a muse. Weird, I know, but the only times I ever read back over something I had written and thought: “Where the fuck did that come from?!” -- where the whole was significantly greater than the mere mortal that created it -- were reading back ‘liary’ entries.
I had forgotten, until tonight, that I used to have the same “Oh my god, I created that!” experiences when I looked at freshly developed photographs: Cartier Bresson moments captured at wedding receptions; shots of fierce, unsmiling children; moments of revelation and vulnerability; still lives and lives stilled... And, let’s face it, more than a couple of lives completely faked. What I see is sometimes (wot, only sometimes?) what I project. So, the second of these shots is a work of fiction. Or framing at the very least. Honest!
Over the road from the Irish Pub (© Chris Boyd)