As a child my son’s passions were art, architecture and soccer, photography was his Dad’s domain. It wasn’t until I taught a pinhole workshop at his school that he made his first photograph. Later, I gave him a 35mm point and shoot which he personalized by covering it with bug stickers. I loaded it with a 36 exposure roll of film and not fifteen minutes later he was back asking if he could have another roll. I still have that little camera tucked away in a drawer in the kitchen.
I began experimenting with digital photography using a Nikon Coolpix. I later purchased a Canon D30 and gave the Coolpix to Wynn to preserve my film stash.
My strategy worked for a while. He’d shoot as much as he wanted then download the photos onto his Mac G3. Then one day I asked him if he needed fresh batteries because I knew the Coolpix was a power hog. He dug through his backpack but couldn’t find the camera. “ I must have left it at school,” he said.
A week later he came home and pulled the camera from his backpack. He told me he had it with him when he and his friends where hiking in the woods and that a girl had tripped and injured her knee. In typical Miquon School fashion everyone dropped everything and rushed the girl to the office for first aid. The Coolpix had spent the week outside, along a trail in the woods, in the rain. I did appreciate his honesty.
The Coolpix survived a week in the elements, what did it in was a broken battery door from the toss of his backpack onto the sidewalk.
Not long afterwards, Wynn got an iPhone and of course, aside from the ability to text and make phone calls, it had a built in camera. For several years the iPhone was all the camera he needed and with each new iPhone version the camera got better and better as did the photography related apps.
When Wynn went off to college I gave him my old Canon 20D. Not wanting to give up any of my L series lenses I bought him a used 35-80 kit lens. Coming from an iPhone he found the 20D’s settings and menus confusing, the LCD was too small and the kit lens was too slow. The iPhone remained his camera of choice.
For the past couple of years I have been collecting film cameras. Some, people have given to me, others I find in thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales. I still carry a torch for film, especially black and white. I shoot with these cameras occasionally and still maintain a darkroom. You can see some of my recent b&w work “Thanksgiving Day Parade” in a previous post.
Wynn mentioned he had friends at RISD that had done film photography when they where in high school and that they would like to try it again. I sent Ryan a Pentax ME and an Olympus OM-2 to Skye for their birthdays.
This got Wynn to thinking maybe he’d like a film camera too and that maybe he’d like to have it for his trip to Paris over spring break. I thought it a bit risky, taking a used camera that you have never used before on such an important trip but what the hell, he would be taking photos with his iPhone too.
While I had multiple cameras I could have given him all were 60’s or 70’s era manual cameras in need of some amount of restoration and I wanted to give him a camera with at least one auto exposure mode for insurance.
Luckily, a few days before Wynn would leave on his trip, I found a Canon AE-1 program at the local thrift shop. It was in great shape and came with a fungus free, 50mm 1.8 lens. It even came with an owner’s manual. When I got it home I installed a new battery and everything worked perfectly. The program mode was a big plus, I would rather he concentrated on content, light and composition than on technical issues.
I shipped the camera along with five rolls of 36 exposure Tri-X which he could send back to me for processing, printing and scanning when he returned. For inspiration I sent him a link to photos of Paris by Andre Kertesz. I told him to not come back with ANY unexposed film.
It wasn’t until the day of his flight that i realized we had never had a discussion about flying with film and x-rays! I texted him while he was on the train to the airport and he texted back that the film was in his suitcase and that it would be checked. I told him that was the worst pace for it as the x-rays for check bags is much stronger and would surely fog the film. He removed it from his suitcase and at the airport he asked for hand inspection.
Here’s what Wynn had to say: Having the AE-1 Program in Paris was a blast, it really gave me the motivation I needed to go into full tourist mode. The AE-1 ended up giving me exactly what I needed, a camera that was super easy to operate, light and durable, and yielded exactly the kinds of photos I was looking for – images that look like they could be prints from IKEA. I’m excited to continue to use my new film camera but am hesitant to take it out without a special occasion. If you would like to send me a roll of film my address is 02 College Street, Box No. 0617 Providence RI, 02903
Check out Wynn’s website to see more of his work in multiple media @ Wynn Geary Design.