My name is Asher. You don’t know me but it’s about time you got to. Us bugs who live in cameras are at the mercy of your readers—so-called photographers who always talk about “different angles” and such when in fact they can’t see nothing that doesn’t happen in the viewfinder of their camera—I mean about real life. Maybe hearing about my past history will wise them up some.
Right now I’m living in a Nikon but it ain’t always been this soft. In fact, when I was growing up (in a Hasselblad) things got to be downright tragic. See, my dad liked to tinker around up in the shutter release housing—as much to get away from us rowdy kids as anything. Anyway, he was bouncing on some sort of spring one evening when the “arty” type camera owner decided to do a time exposure of a snow scene at twilight. Dad was punched to death by the first plunge of the cable release. The mess that resulted jammed the shutter and it never did work right anymore. Mom said we had to move on to escape the bad memories—and the wrath of the snap shooter.
We relocated in a big old view camera belonging to a certain Mr. “A.” (I can’t write out his name because he was a big deal landscape guy and thought very highly of in ecological circles to boot.) One day while he was setting up a shot of a pile of rocks in Maine, Mom was munching on his diaphragm—the one in his camera. She claimed it was high-quality protein. Mr. A stopped down the lens and Mom got squished at f/64. Which goes to show when it comes to getting the picture they want, photographers have no consideration for anything else. Mom would be alive today if he’d settled for soft focus. We never did get all of Mom scraped off that diaphragm and Mr. A had to buy a whole new camera, which was poetical justice, says I. But I went into a depression after that— didn’t much care about anything. Popped tiny time pills and staggered from one camera to another with no discrimination.
Soon I was in the very depths of degradation, living in the camera of a sensualist! The picture-box this guy used was one of your reasonably priced SLR’s, but the way the dude handled it you couldn’t tell it from the higher-priced gizmos. All he shot was soft-focus-available-light art compositions of naked young stuff, if you get my drift. The guy always had at least two of them young lovelies hanging around his pad—plus his wife! It was a swinging scene, provided you could hack the company of a gaggle of skinny teen-aged girls with little on their bodies or in their minds. No matter—soon enough I had to leave anyway because I threw-up and clogged the mirror-action of the man’s brand new Minolta SRT-202. (For some reason I can’t stand the smell of a new camera.)
The weeks and months that followed was a blur of wandering. Once I even woke up in an Instamatic nestled between a fat lady’s boobs at Disney World—the very pits. I tried to end it all by frying myself on a hot flashcube but all it did was short out the battery circuit. That’s what finally decided me to shape up.
I’m sorta semi-retired now. It’s a much quieter life I lead in this Nikon than I have ever led before. The camera belongs to a former Life photographer who doesn’t get out much—mostly he just sits around and fondles his equipment and daydreams of past big-deal photo-essay assignments. And since he never uses his camera I can nap with no worry of being done-in by the film-advance lever.
Meanwhile, Mr. Editor, I hope you don’t think my only purpose in writing is to knock the guys and gals who expose their film and themselves for a living. No sir. While it’s true that I myself have it plenty good now, the fact remains I still got a bunch of relatives out there trying to survive under hostile conditions. So this missive is mainly to remind camera people to be more careful in the future—live and let live, so to speak. Us camera bugs may screw-up a mechanism from time-to-time, but we don’t go around steppin’ on photojournalists. And thanks for hearing me out. By the way, I’ll understand if you don’t have the guts to print this.
P.S. The guy who typed this for me only thinks he’s a photographer. In my book that’s almost as good as not being one.
Confessions of a Camera Bug was originally published in the November 1979 issue of Camera 35 magazine. The professional photographers Asher references in his “letter to the editor” were the real deal back in the 1970s, all very famous pros in the field. If you think you can name any or all of them, please share the information with us via a comment on this post.
Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.
By Maria Garriott
There’s no doubt that Barack Obama’s ascent to the presidency is an historic event—finally, after years of second-class status, discrimination, and dismissal, a basketball player has reached the highest office in the land. My Democratic friends are one step shy of hysteria, believing this is the Second Coming, if not of Jesus, than at least of Abraham Lincoln. My Republican friends are so gloomy they make Eeyore look like a Steelers cheerleader.
And except for a few appointee’s unpaid-taxes snafus (and really, it’s so easy to forget to declare a few hundred thousand or so), Obama has had no major missteps. But I’m having a hard time getting used to him in the Oval Office, whether he’s wearing a tailored business suit or really cool gym gear.
He’s younger than me.
How can the president of the United States be my junior? Isn’t the leader of the free world supposed to be a father figure—or, like Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan, a grandfather figure? Shouldn’t the commander-in-chief be someone you can look up to in a chronological way? Not your kid brother?
How can he be old enough to be president? He was born in 1961, when hula hoops were hot and skateboards had metal wheels. When John Glenn circled the Earth in a capsule the size of a port-a-potty, Barack was spooning in Gerber applesauce. When John F. Kennedy was shot, he toddled around in diapers. (I, on the other hand, was in kindergarten and got to eat in front of the TV and watch the Kennedy funeral, an unprecedented violation of accepted rules of dinner engagement.) When our cities erupted in riots in 1968 after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assassination, he was seven, and just learning how to button his little bellbottom pants. How can he be old enough to have his finger on the button?
I knew it would come to this. My mother used to intone, “You know you’re getting old when the cops and doctors are younger than you.” I hit that milestone twenty years ago, and I’m still feeling the shock waves. When a cop stops me for a broken tail light or making a left turn that is a tiny bit illegal, I invariably look into his just-started-shaving face and want to say, “Hon, does your mom know where you are?” I remember the first time a gynecologist stopped being my father’s age. I switched doctors.
I got new glasses this week—just for distance and driving at night, but probably the last pair I’ll get without bifocals. “They make me look old,” I lamented. Then I realized that it wasn’t the glasses, but the clarity of corrected vision. There’s a reason retouched photos have that blurry look.
Obama, you’ll note, doesn’t even have to wear glasses.
Now that # 44 has been sworn in, millions of baby boomers—women as well as men, now, thanks to Hillary—look in the mirror every morning and say, “Well, chump, if you had studied harder, and laid off the Bud Light, it could have been you!” Boomers, who aren’t aging gracefully as a demographic, will wake up and smell the latte, and feel the sting of Missed Opportunities.
Still, I wish him well. We need fresh thinking, and someone to galvanize Americans into giving their best to our country. I just hope he brought his hula hoop to the White House.
Copyright © 2009 Maria Garriott.
Maria Gariott tries to find humor everywhere, including in her day job at Johns Hopkins University and her five (count ’em–five) children. In 1980, she and her husband moved into a struggling inner city neighborhood to start a multi-ethnic church. Her memoir A Thousand Resurrections: An Urban Spiritual Journey is what you might get if you cross Seventh Heaven with Homicide or The Wire. A preview chapter, bio, and ordering information are available on her website http://www.athousandresurrections.com, which you can reach by clicking her name in the blogroll link in the sidebar. I met Maria in one of the many writing groups I’ve participated in over the years. (My first such class—I do believe—began and ended before Maria was born.) As you see, she’s a very clever essayist for such a young person and I’m very, very proud to have her on this blog.
By Shirley Lupton
My son, Robert, and I were having an argument on the train platform in Avignon. He wanted to stop in Lyon to have a look around and have lunch and I wanted to go straight back to Paris where we had rented an apartment for a few weeks. Robert is a travel writer and I do not see him much except the rare times we can travel together. “Mom,” he said, Lyon is the food capital of France. I guarantee that after two hours in Lyon you will not want to leave.” “You win,” I told him but I held in my head the impression that Lyon would be a city of damp unadorned buildings with menus that featured Lyonnaise potatoes.
So, after the warm October sun and the infinite yellows of southern France we stepped into a chilly plaza coated with light rain. As we walked along its streets even he agreed that Lyon’s buildings were stolid and Germanic. It will be better by the river, Robert said, and so it was. The River Saone flowed with a grand sweep under stone arched bridges and a seducing sun came out as we walked along. He was eying a white cathedral high on a hill on the opposite bank. I could imagine the thousand steps up to it and suggested it was time for lunch. Because part of Robert’s job is eating he has acquired a sixth sense about restaurants. He needs only to walk by the entrance, and sniff the air. “This is it, Mom.” His choice, Le Bistrot de Lyon, was no different from dozens of others along the cobblestones of Rue Merciere, which, with its beat and bustle, seemed to be the food heart of Lyon. It felt right to me too.
Le Bistrot opened itself to us. The maitre de was brisk but welcoming in that nuanced way the French have to be OK with Americans. We were seated at a small table with a white tablecloth and a pot of fresh flowers in the non-smoking section where smoking was still done without guilt or irony. Nearby a table of businessmen, six or eight of them in dark suits, were finishing up a platter of pork roast and sausages. A waiter poured from several bottles of wine set about and discussed their desserts. Good humor flowed between the waiter and the men in their rumble of conversation.
The décor was all polished brass and Persian carpets of faded reds, oranges and blues, The sconces on the walls were converted gaslights. In the mirror behind the men I could see our heads; Robert’s curling black hair, and mine, graying, had developed that “certain age” sway. Had I worn a cloche it could have been 1944. The waiter turned from the men and at once became our waiter as he placed a basket of bread on the table. When Robert spoke to him in fluent French his surprise showed in two dots of red on his cheeks. He wore a white shirt and a bold cerise tie and an apron with a casual hitch up the front. We ordered the specials and a half carafe of local red wine. The bread had deep crust and yielded dough that was thick and nutty, the color of caramel. Two small salads arrived –arugula with herbs and a garlic mustard dressing. The wine, hearty and fruity, tasted of grapes laced with primroses or cherries. And then the entrée, mine a slice of medium rare beef lightly covered with a sauce of orange cognac and butter and potatoes cut with edges crisped by caramelized onions. Another waiter joined up with ours, a dark skinned younger man, an apprentice perhaps. He observed our pleasure in the food and gave us two desserts instead of the one with the special. A small cheese plate, and an apple crisp that was so good I wanted to stand and scream. It crunched with the light, buttery shell and sugar and the freshness of the apples.
The check was modest and correct for such a simple lunch. But the confluence of care in the cooking, the colors, the way it was served by waiters who enjoyed the work, their reserved humanity and the happy hum of the businessmen, all this did something to us. It opened our feelings, which is a rare thing for a restaurant to do. In the past Robert and I had wounded each other after the divorce from his father. That day my faith in his judgment, his willingness to take me in hand and the mysterious magic of the Bistrot softened some of what had been hardened from all that. Outside the streets of Lyon looked entirely different. Robert went on to the white Cathedral and I walked about the shops and plazas in a daze. Later, on the train Robert wrote the following in his Journal.
The city had seemed sober and northern and monochromatic –completely without spark—when we arrived, hungry, into a gray noon, with apparently a fine mist between us and any color the city might have had. By the time we headed back to the train station at 4 PM, the invisible mist had lifted, my belly had been satisfied, I had sweated my way up to the city’s heights, my intellect, or rather my vision, had been braced by an extra post lunch coffee, the sun had grown stronger behind the clouds. So that now the martial rows of houses along the river revealed previously unseen blues, pinks, and yellows–still all very restrained. Gradually too, more direct rays had penetrated the weather and produced their shadows, and with them the facades and the very bend in the River Soane with its curving heights were revealing the nuance of a third dimension.
In Paris we had many fine meals but never one like the lunch in Lyon.
Copyright © 2009 Shirley Lupton.
I met Shirley Lupton in a writing class and was impressed by her cool, sardonic (is “sardonic” a combination of “sarcastic” and “ironic?”) Dorothy Parker-ish take on life, at least as expressed in her manuscripts. The first story by Shirley I read had the wonderful title “Nicole Kidman’s Bathrobe,” and was every bit as funny as the title suggests, but it also contained some very interesting insights into human relationships. Later, as I got to know her as a friend, I concluded that my initial impression held up. Shirley proved to be as witty and as insightful in real life as she was on the page.