I can’t remember when a camera wasn’t nearby. My dad was a keen amateur photographer in the 1960’s and his weapon of choice was a Yashica twin lens reflex. I remember the light brown leather case and scarlet lining he kept it in. Images were ‘two and a quarter square negs’ as he called them. By today’s standards, this would be medium format, but in those days, it was probably ‘small format’ with view and field cameras being far more prevalent than today. But that’s what he used, and he used it well. All of the images of my sisters and I growing up were taken with the Yashica.All this time, there was darkroom equipment floating around. A house with two adults and 3 growing children naturally didn’t have dedicated space for a darkroom, so when the passion was fired up, a huge home renovation was undertaken to make place in the playroom for a temporary darkroom. Rolls and rolls of film were developed during the day each time my dad exited a tiny cupboard where he’d loaded Patterson developing tanks with previous rolls of film. These were hung up until it was time…. Time after the sun went down, and there was enough shielding from outside light around the ‘darkroom’ and we could begin the magic. The magic of making images appear under red-light as if by magic. As a six-year old, this was more than enough to mesmerise me and make me hooked for life.
Then, sometime in the mid-70’s he upgraded the Yashica to a Canon AE-1. This had electronics, a light meter, a viewfinder that had a right-way up image and simpler and accurate focusing. It was a doddle to use, and soon I was using it too. Dad just had a 50mm lens, and the new 35mm film had abundant stocks of colour film available at the pharmacy. My mom often dropped the film off for developing and when the developing was done, she bought dad a new roll of film at the same time.
It was around this time that dad got a Voigtlander slide projector, and there were routine Saturday nights where a sheet was hung up in the lounge and slide evenings were held; often of our trips on holiday, most often to the Kruger National Park. Slide trays were small, and the collection of slides was large, so there were frequent breaks for swapping over from the slide holders to the trays. The first frame of each tray was often upside down, meaning the break would be longer while the slides were rotated to project correctly.
Then my sister went off to university in Grahamstown to study journalism. She borrowed dad’s camera, and soon acquired one of her own. A few years later, I received the birthday gift of a lifetime – a Canon of my own. Since that time, I cannot remember when cameras weren’t part of my environment. Granted, there were times when they were more utilitarian, and got used for field study documentation while studying geology, and there were even times when they weren’t used at all.
That’s changed, and now I feel I have a vision and this should be given life…