In The Beginning
I was five years old and supposed to be in bed sleeping. I heard clicking and ticking noises out in the living room and they were keeping me awake. When I went out to see what the cause was, I found my dad doing something in an almost dark room with a bunch of stuff I had never seen before. The only light other than the machine he was using was a dim red light he had shining on the ceiling; I could barely see what he was doing. I watched dad for a while and couldn’t figure out what he was doing. At some point I must have made a noise and my dad turned around and saw I was watching. My first inclination was to turn and run back into my room, but my dad asked me to come over to him; with a pounding heart I walked over and stood next to him thinking I was in big trouble. Instead of being scolded for being out of bed, dad asked if I knew what he was doing. After looking around at everything he was working with, I guessed he was making pictures.
Dad let me stay up with him for a while, and he explained what he was doing and how it worked. Fascination barely fit what I was seeing. Dad shined a light with what looked like a backward picture on paper. When the light turned off, he put that paper in special stinky water and a not backward picture of my mom sort of faded onto the paper. My dad could do magic! After that, he put the forward picture into stinkier [sic] water. He said the smelly part made the fading-in part stop. Next, he put the forward picture into a not as stinky water; he left it in that water longer than the other two and told me it made the black stuff last forever. Then, he gave the picture a bath and I remember laughing at him. When the picture was done with its bath, he held it up and let most of the water drip back into the little bathtub. He stood up with the picture in a grabber thing and asked me to follow him. We went in the bathroom and he closed the door and turned the lights on. The bright light hurt my eyes at first, but after a short time I could see there was a string over the bathtub with a bunch of pictures on clothespins. He added the one he just made and told me to hop up on the edge of the tub. While he held me to keep me from falling, I could see more pictures of mom, my brother & sister, a couple of things that were boring, and a picture me. After turning the lights off, we went back out and I watched my dad make more magic…the next thing I remember was waking up in the morning in my bed with wonderful memories of magic--and, so it began…
My poor dad. From that point on, I bugged him and bugged him to get me my own camera. He would let me take pictures here and there with his camera, but only under close supervision. My brother and sister had cameras (and the meanies wouldn’t let me try them), why couldn’t I have one? Money had no meaning to me at that age, and I wanted it now. Finally, Christmas of 1968, Santa brought me a camera. It was a brand-new Kodak Instamatic 124. It was cool, because dad’s camera required carefully loading film by hand; mine you just popped this film pack in, and after winding the film until it clicked, I was ready to take pictures. I got two of those cartridges of film and it even had little flash cubes. I burned through the first cartridge in no time at all. Mom and dad both told me I’d have to earn money to buy film and that developing wasn’t free either. That slowed me down a little, but I was still very happy with my gift. My first disappointment was when mom had the first two film packs processed. Dad sat down with me and explained why they were blurry and strange. The next set of prints were better; dad went through them and told me I needed to look at the whole picture before I pushed the button and explained why and when the flash was necessary. This continued for a while, but eventually I was doing it on my own which included collecting Coke bottles to exchange for cash to buy film. The cost part of taking pictures slowed me down a lot, but never stopped me.
Twelve years later, after getting my first real job, I saved my money with a goal. Pentax had released the K1000 35 mm SLR two years before, and I wanted one from the moment I saw it. It took me six months to save the $300 it cost to purchase it, but I had it. The kit came with the body, a 55 mm f/2.0 lens, and a screw-on cover that allowed use of the camera when the bottom half was on. I was a little let down when I realized I needed to buy a strobe unit for it. It was also the point in my life where I realized I was spending money every time I released the shutter. I did eventually purchase a Vivitar strobe for it, and soon after I added a Seikanon f/3.8-5.6 28-200 mm lens. I used that setup for years and took a few decent pictures with it, most of which were black & white. That camera is very durable and survived many years; when my daughter took a photography class in High School, I gave it to her as a gift to get her started.
Dad's Kodak Retina II
Kodak Instimatic 124
Canon EOS 10S
Canon EOS Rebel XT
Canon EOS 80D
I've owned many cameras over the years. After the Instamatic 124, I more or less followed the camera technology curve. Some lasted, some didn’t, and some I didn’t like at all. All the cameras shown in the margin are still in my possession.
Christopher Alan Monroe Photography
© 2019 Christopher Alan Monroe Photography ▪ All Rights Reserved