The Junk Whisperer. Part III

My folks had discovered an actual camera store in Dover, New Hampshire at some point and when I told them about the Brownie, they were kind enough to stop in and pick me up a couple of rolls, ready to meet my sander and get resized to fit. Now with everything I needed to go put this old beautiful box into action, only one question remained: Color or Black and White.


Black and White film holds a special and dear place in my heart. Many years ago, a much younger and substantially more awkward version of me could often be seen stalking interesting shadows and high contrast compositions with my trusty steel body Minolta. It had belonged to my father when he was young and now I had taken to it with enthusiasm. It shoots 35mm and though it only has one lens and is not a snazzy SLR, (i.e., Single Lens Reflex, meaning that the range finder lets you look right through the lens of the camera and not out a separate little range finder in the upper left corner of the camera) it still took the best Black and White photos I’d ever seen. I spent many a happy hour, late at night in the campus dark room developing and making prints of my black and white images.

Color though, offered another, special possibility.

In this crazy-fast, laser like perfected digital age, the phones we have crammed in our collective pockets can take pictures of stunning resolution and clarity and for some odd reason, this ability has kicked off the craze of the “retro-ing” of pictures. The ability to saturate the colors, fade the edges and fake a little light bleed at a corner here and there has become increasingly popular. I have to admit, I find it somewhat perplexing.

I’m looking at you, Hipsamatic and Instagram.

Without a doubt, the images made with these bits of software do indeed look genuinely old school and  the filters and effects used on each uploaded image are often dutifully stamped into the accompanying text of the Facebook post by the shooters.

Lens: Edward Q

Film: Kobe’s 1971

Flash: strobe

…Or some such thing.

I mean no offense to the legion of happy iPhone photographers out there, but when I see these images, my mind quickly drifts to of all the actual filters and lenses that still lurk to this day in dark and dusty, forgotten drawers and backs of closets in homes across the world. They sit unused and unloved and it somehow seems a cheat to let the computer oldify the photo if you have the tools to do it the right way from the very beginning. To me, it feels like buying carrots at the store, sticking them in the ground only to pull them out and call them homegrown. Sometimes, doing something the hard way makes the end product that much better.

To my mind, anyway.

It also makes me slower on the draw, so I guess victory can be claimed on both sides.

Carefully loading the black box with my precious eight frames of ISO 200, color film, I carried the Brownie out side, trying to look at the world with my dusty, rusty photographer’s eye. Something I hadn’t done in far, far too long.

What initially came thundering back to me was the realization that I had eight shots and that was it. For the first time in a long time, I had to really consider my shot rather than just blaze away. It was going back to hunting with a muzzleloader after having used what is essentially, a machine gun. I had become used to snapping off a double fist-full of pictures, looking at what I had, and the culling the duds. In the end, I’d still have three or four pictures that were worth keeping of any given object or situation. Unless your funds are limitless, it doesn’t work that way with film.

I thought about subject

I’m drawn to photographing stuff. I like stuff! It doesn’t move, it’s timeless and you can fiddle with it to get the best effects. The problem is that it can also be impersonal. A photo of a boat on a beach is great and all, but it doesn’t get coveted by your great grandchildren, it doesn’t solve a family mystery and it probably won’t be attributed to you if you’re not there to claim attribution. This time around, I was shooting for something to go in a family album. I was remembering the picture that Great-Grandma took of her child and husband

Scooting around in the flower garden next door, a fancily dressed fairy princess and a serious butterfly hunter caught my eye. My son, Shortstack is six now and his sister Lulu Belle is four and to our great relief and enjoyment, they are each other’s best friend as well as sibling. I also tend to have a slightly biased eye when viewing them. They were the perfect subjects

In this case, their near constant movement would only add to the image. It is how I see them nearly all times unless they are asleep. Blurry.

Holding the camera at chest height and looking through one of the range finders, I lined up my subject.

The shutter swings. SNAP!

What a sound.

I catch her again as she flies along at the edge of the garden.


After a few seconds of cajoling and kindness, I get both of them to stand still long enough to line them both up, capturing a moment of their youth to celluloid.

SNAP! Number three out of eight taken.

The day is beautiful and breezy as the chilly afternoon wind kicks up off the Atlantic and blows the treetops. The three of us head out for some adventure and the Brownie comes with us.

As my two dear children enjoy their time with some kites at a nearby field, I stand off to squeeze them into the tiny field of my camera lens.


Sun at my back and turning the Brownie on its side, I look through the landscape range finder and take one more picture, just to be safe.

SNAP! Number five.

The kids are very interested as I take each photo and are more than a little bugged that I can’t show them the image like on my phone. I wonder if they think I’m making it up. To temper them I take a few more with my digital and we talk about which ones came out best.

That evening, I can’t resist the siren song of low angle sunlight and I joyously give in and search out my last three images. These are for me.




In the end, it wasn’t that long a wait to get my film back from the photo place in town. The hardest part was just getting around to driving it over, and then back to pick it up. I had forgotten how exciting it is to open that little glued envelope. Things could go so wrong. You won’t know until you fan them out and see for your self. There is no going back.

The Garden Series:

The Kite Series:

The Boathouse:

There they are. All eight in all their glory.

I still have the roll of black and white, but that will have to wait for another time and a different method of printing. The photo place I had brought this roll to only develops and prints black and white about every six months, so I’m left with a problem. I could leave my used rolls of film with them and wait like a patient little soldier, or…

It’s a thought to terrifying to think.

Should I?

I know how, after all.

There’s really not that much to… developing it all… my self!


All I need is an enlarger.

Oh, and a developing can.

Well, I need the chemicals too. And lets not forget the baths and a timer. Not to mention tongs, a water supply, drying racks and a bunch of other minutiae I’m no doubt forgetting.

I wonder what corner of the basement would make the best dark room?


Uh oh…

English well speached here.

About a month ago, my wife, two year old son and I went for a trip to the big city of Boston. I know by “big city” standards, Boston hardly rates, but for us it’s the BIG CITY. We tend to be quiet, country-type folk but every once in a while we need our cityfix and we head for Beantown. To us, it’s just the right size. Big enough to have some really cool things to do yet small enough to get around in easily. Most rides on the T (public transport) are 5 to 10 minute affairs and we’ve gotten to the point where we know our way around fairly well.

The other big draw for us is that we can take the commuter rail right into the city and it drops us exactly one stop on the subway away from our hotel. Driving to Boston is actually faster than taking the train and since I tend be like Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trench when I’m behind the wheel, I never minded tackling the dreaded Boston drivers. I actually find it kind of fun. My wife, who for the record, drives just as crazily as I do, has decided that the train is the way to go and having tried it, I have to agree with her. The primary reason for this is our two year old son, who I refer to as Short Stack. The train gives him a chance to move around and play with his beloved toy trucks and gives us the chance to drink overpriced beer and eat overpriced chicken salad, all while bumping along at 60 mph, enjoying the view of the back sides of department stores and warehouses. Honestly, I really liked it.

We stay at the same place every time we go. It’s one of those secret gems that’s tucked away and is nearly invisible to the average fanny pack wearer and to make it extra sweet, it’s inexpensive too. The best reason to go there though is that it’s right in the middle of the North End. That means Little Italy. THAT means, pastry. As Short Stack would say, “yummy, yummy pastry.” So, while Mom relaxed in the room and got us unpacked, Short Stack and I ambled over to the pastry shop. Again, we have our favorite and avoid the sugar coated vortex that is Mike’s Pastry. We passed Mike’s and the amoeba like crowd squirting through the doors and proceeded on to our smaller, lesser known shop. As we walk along, I listen to locals talking to each other in Italian and smile, I love this place! Once we make it inside our chosen pastry shop, I noticed that they did some remodeling. I also notice the signs that were put up warning would-be thieves about the security cameras. The signs made it nearly impossible for me to order my cannoli with a straight face.

It’s amazing how by changing one word slightly it can change not only the meaning but the entire intent of a sentence. So what was the premiss? I know they meant premises, but I like this message much better. It makes a simple warning sign into a mini philosophy class. Some day, Short Stack will be old enough for me to point stuff like this out to him. He can then roll his eyes and remark about how weird I am and put on his best tortured teenage look. In the mean time though, he’s content to get roughly 65% of his ricotta cannoli in his mouth at once and the remaining 35% in his hair. I wonder if the shop owners would let me use their bathroom to clean him up… on premiss.

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