Today I dug my old bellows camera from a box in the spare room. It is a 1950s Kershaw camera made when Great Britain used to make such good stuff. Very robust, very sexy and very simple. It does just one thing it takes photographs. And for those who know about these things it had just one speed – 1/50th and it has two apertures, f.11 and f.16. That was it. You wound the film on, you looked through a hole and made sure there was enough light and you pressed the shutter. Film and processing is expensive and I had to think about each shot and make damn sure I got it right. When I asked a friend to pose I reminded him I had one shot at it. It concentrates the mind and brings the human element back into proper relations with the machine.
Why am I doing this to myself? Simple. To get out of the rat race I have created for myself. I have been retired for nearly ten years and I am busier than I ever was when I was working. All my friends, when I ask them, have three words they wave at me like a patriotic flag, “busy busy busy”. As if that was an achievement. When God kicked Adam out of the garden he had no idea how busy he was going to be. The first fig leaf he had to wear just multiplied into a million things he had to find and use and care for and insure against and keep abreast of and fight to protect. Accumulating things and using them, and going back to work to accumulate more things was the curse that God put on Adam. 60,000 years later give or take a few thousand, we are still at it, ferreting around as fiercely as ever, making the accumulation of things, the using and caring for them the sole purpose of our existence.
I have thirteen million tunes on my various gadgets which I shall never listen to, I have 3000 books downloaded and where will I even begin to make a dent in them? My cameras have hundreds of thousands of pictures which whizz by on my computer screens, just mere coloured dots which occasionally become meaningful like when they are the faces of my children. The digital age has brought us vast acres digital noise as vast and as wide as the universe. I know with key words we can find what we want but so what? Whoopee! But but but… how about that cup of tea I want to have in pure silence. The tyranny of the digital age does not let me have what I really want, so I have to pretend I am enjoying it all and race along with all my fellow comrades Who says Stalin is dead?
So folks, I got the camera out to have my moment of pure silence. This afternoon I leaned against a lamp post to steady myself because at 1/50th of a second there is bound to be camera shake; I took aim, I looked at the light conditions, I composed the picture carefully through my square window and froze for a second, holding my breath before I squeezed the trigger once and a very satisfying and smooth metallic click followed. Then I folded the bellows into its box and put the camera away. I know I had taken a good picture matching the lighting conditions to the shutter speed and aperture at my disposal. Sorry to be technical folks. But it was that hamlet (cigar) moment for me. Excuse me but I am writing this blog for people of (ahem!) a certain age.
A few weeks ago I had a very successful party providing music with my jazz records on a turntable. The people loved being able to almost see the music being made. Now it is the camera. My batch of digital cameras will have their uses but, in future instead of taking a load of tacky pictures, I shall, I hope find one good picture to take. The same with books. I was racing to read the numerous books available on my digital machines. Now I shall just keep them on the shelves and look at them and occasionally take them down to read at leisure. That is how folks used to do things till the devil swept us all in a hand-basket and dropped us on to the fast lane.
It takes a strong mind to stop for a moment and think we are white-water-rafting into a whirlpool and if we are not enjoying it, we can make a conscious choice to get off. If we are not choked up with all that the digital world has mesmerized us into doing, maybe we will have time to sit in a corner and play that guitar; talk to that girlfriend face to face and tell her she has a spot on her nose; lie in that park and enjoy the sun; show our little children we are really listening to them.
When in the old country in my grandmother’s mud house I was sitting at my desk studying for my exams between two candles I had no idea what I was signing up for. Now half a century later I look back and think “what is the use of all this garbage”? If I had only known then what I know now, I would have thrown away the fig leaf!
Take it easy folks, Make the morning last…