Once again, we dig into the archives and bring the past into the present…
This week I’ve gone just about as far back as it’s possible to go. For several years I photographed with cameras borrowed from friends or that belonged to the school I attended. Unfortunately, those negatives are lost to time.
The first serious camera I owned was a Yashica 35mm. It was sold as a kit that had a 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm lenses. And it came with a really nice leather camera bag! I still have the camera and it still works flawlessly. although only the 50mm lens remains with it.
My parents insisted on using the camera at my sisters graduation because they wanted “really nice pictures”. What exactly happened is a story for my therapist*, but the bag and extra lenses never returned. The loss was also deepened by the realization there were several rolls of exposed film I had failed to remove from the bag, and now, they too, were gone forever.
Nevertheless, the image above is a contact sheet from the first roll of film that I put through the camera. The pictures were made as I walked to and from school and work. It was a roll of Ilford HP5 B&W film that I developed and printed myself. There are 3 missing strips from the roll and I think those were images shot for the yearbook that year, and so I kept them separate. Wherever they went I’m sure they were wonderful.
Contact sheets are an invaluable editing and organizational tool for photographers. I even make them from my digital images. For a long time I used 16x20 enlarged contact sheets as a proofing tool. Clients loved them, and often purchased one or more as add-on’s. A highly beneficial and unintended consequence resulting from something I did just because it was different and easy for me to do. Who knew?
For all the materials I save, one thing I don’t have are accurate records of when the pictures were made. For some silly reason (perhaps my therapist can shed some light on this?*) in those days I didn’t put dates on anything, so I can’t say with any certainty when any of my early work was done. At some point later, I did add a guesstimate of April 1979 for this roll. Based on the image content and what I remember of that time, this is probably a pretty good guess.
Nowadays, with digital imaging, the record keeping is done for you in the exif data embedded in each image file. And geo tags will even tell you where you were when the picture was made! Although it was easy enough to keep good records back in the day. All you needed was paper and a pen. Oh, well…
*I don’t actually have a therapist. In fact, the story had a kind of happy ending. From the money I received from my parents home owners insurance, I was able to purchase my first Nikon, an FM2. I still have that one too…