The night I ended my first photography class, I called my father. I thought about waiting to the next day to call, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. My professor asked students to borrow an analog camera if they could, since she didn’t have enough cameras available for everyone. I asked my dad if I could borrow his, which he gladly shipped over.
I remember his camera like an old childhood memory. This was the camera that captured my first piano recital, 8th grade school dance, high school graduation, college graduation, and a whole host of other family memories. It was like receiving an old family heirloom.
The camera came in an unsuspecting brown cardboard box. You’d never guess an old moldy smelling camera was contained in that box. Once I cut through the clear plastic tape, a perfectly fitted Korean newspaper lay on top as a buffer between the box and bubble wrap that encased the camera bag.
After unwrapping the next layer of protection, I unbuckled the straps on the camera bag and saw a wrinkled up British pound bill. Good ole’, dad. Knowing that we traveled the world last year, he must have thought, “They could use this.” As I pulled the camera body out of the bag, more coins rattled at the bottom of the bag. I guess if you’re going to ship a camera, you want to add more weight to the bag with South Korean coins.
I held my dad’s camera like a newborn, gently cupping the body and resting its back on my palm. Although you’d feel the warmth of a newborn when held against one’s skin, my father’s camera felt cold and frigid to the touch, mostly due to its 1,500-mile transport to make it into my hands. I studied and examined the body carefully moving my fingers around the rough, calloused exterior and yet gazing at the lens with such awe and hope to capture a photo the way my father did decades ago.
I carefully placed the camera back in the bag, and zipped it shut.
After asking my professor to take a look at my father’s camera, she recommended that I take it to a local camera repair shop to have it checked out. On a frigid Monday morning, I towed the camera with our boys to Peter’s Camera Shop. Of course after living in this city for over seven years, one would think I would know my way around. But no, as usual, I got lost. I called the shop, and Mr. Peter navigated over the phone to help me find his shop in the northwest part of town.
A grandfatherly fellow with round silver-rimmed glasses in an Eastern European accent was a stark contrast to the usual Americanized Midwest accent I’d been so used to hearing with long a’s in words like “apple” and “Mackinac.” My ears perked up to hear his accent, which was a refreshing change to those long a’s I often catch myself saying. I left my father’s camera in his care, hoping that it would be a simple dust cleaning job.
I called the following day to find out that it was much worse. Decades worth of lack of fresh air and moisture from high levels of humidity rendered the camera useless. Mr. Peter recommended that I buy a used analog camera, which would be cheaper than the cost of repair.
My heart sank.
This is my father’s camera. I didn’t want to leave it sitting on my shelf as a reminder of him. I wanted to use it and try out the varying technical shutter speeds and depth of field ranges that he tried when taking photos of our family.
Thus, I am caught with a decision to make. My second photo assignment will be handed out tonight, and I’ve asked my professor for some advice. We’ll see what she recommends after class, but I have a feeling that I already know what I want to do. I just have to make the call.
From my hometown to yours,