Cameras interest me —
the science of converting the real into image and the art of seeing image in the real.
My grandfather loved cameras.. he claimed that he once had taken pictures for a newspaper but I never believed him. But — he did have boxes and boxes of stained, brittle, and faded black and white or yellowed snapshots stuffed in crannies and drawers throughout his well-used farm house.
I didn’t realize that photography might have meant more to him than simple documentation of family until I found photos he’d made of rocket launches at Cape Canaveral and late 60’s lunar walks. After he died, I sat on the floor cradling his photos. Why would this man who was born in the days of horse-drawn vehicles be so taken with space flight?
Man on the Moon by C.S. Ridge (1969 taken on his 12″ b&w TV set
Today I understand that the brain is a living camera, taking its own snapshots and creating portrait, landscape, and still life images of the world in which we live. Our physical cameras serve as technology facilitators of our neural efforts to remember images that fade over time. As I look back through my own photo binders, I touch older images of my mother as a young woman in a halter top. My father, the athlete swinging a driver over his right shoulder. My grandfather seated on his favorite horse, Rocket.
In my own aging world, I have long abandoned my manual SLR and shifted to using my iPh*ne as my camera. My photos reside in its memory and on Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram. Today, my digital images don’t fade away, but I do sometimes miss the capability to shift printed images in my hand and reminisce about a trip to Ireland or my son’s college graduation. It’s why I occasionally lay old photos out on the coffee table because sometimes I like to revisit the “low tech” memories of my own youth even as I hunt in tiers of computer files for recent digital images I want to look at on this night.
Times change. Technology changes. But even in my own nostalgia, I know my grandfather would have loved a phone with a camera built into it. He would have been amazed and delighted at the wonder of it all, this technology we take for granted at our fingertips today. He was infatuated with how things work and with the scientific advances during his long life.
I think he would be disappointed that we don’t attend enough to the technology advances in our own lives or simply take for granted what humans a few decades ago could only imagine in a Star Trek episode.
My grandfather only finished eighth grade but he modeled what it means to be a learner for a lifetime – his infatuation with cameras and moon shots reminds me of that every time I touch those images.
And for more on cool cameras of the past, check out this camera collection…
Cameras of John Kratz at Flickr