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Since I was young one of my biggest passions, even predating my full blown obsession with music, has been photography. My first camera was a, was a, damn, can’t remember what my first camera was. Oddly enough, I do remember some of the photographs which found their way onto the very first roll of film I ever shot.
I was probably six years old, walking home from Fenside Public School. For some reason or another it is one of those things that has always stuck with me. It was my first camera, it was my first roll of film and I was looking for something, anything, to take photographs of. As I passed by a driveway on Roywood Drive I managed to attract the attention of a group of seven or eight odd older boys playing hockey in said driveway.
“That’s not a real camera,” he crowed triumphantly.
“Is to,” I replied in the way all hard done by six year olds did back in the day (maybe still do, who am I to say).
Well, you get the idea. Feeling maligned and wanting to prove myself to complete strangers I confronted them as best I could.
“I’ll take a photograph of you, and show you when I get the pictures back.”
That’s all I had to say. Just the intimation that I was going to take their photo prompted a complete and sudden about face, derision wise, on their part. Suddenly they became animated statues, striking all kinds of bizarre and obtuse poses while I fired off three or four frames, capturing that particular moment in time for posterity sake.
True to my word, once the photos were developed I wandered by the self same driveway to show these erstwhile bozos that my camera was, in fact, real. I never did manage to hook up with them again; but that’s alright. The whole experience taught me two very valuable lessons.
Most people really, really love to have their photographs taken.
When people challenge you to something or another that can’t be determined at the time, well, odds are they won’t be there after the fact to hold up their end of said challenge.
I had a camera with me on that day back in 1969 when McGwire’s party made their way to Niagara Falls, the better to entertain a gaggle of our visiting brethren and cistern from back across the pond. The thing is, back in 1969, the U.S. turned off their falls. Yeah, no water was flowing much beyond a bare trickle that day. I remembered my camera and spent a good 5 or 6 shots of the dry falls, a site never again to be seen in my lifetime but sadly wasted on an eight, going on nine, year old.
Those shots are among my top ten that I wish I could, miraculously, rediscover.
Which isn’t to say that I’ve become a photographic wallflower ever since; God no, far from it. My photographic eye has turned to capturing a visual document of life around me.
I’ve always been enamored of photography as a means to capture a time and a place, on celluloid or digitally, for all time. I mean, how freaking cool is that? When you consider the fact that taking a photograph of something, anything, is immortalizing that moment for posterity. A moment in time that, regardless of how innocuous or how frequently repeated will never, EVER, be quite the same again. A moment, frozen in time, for good, bad or indifferent. I suppose this is only a reflection of the passion for history that I have inherited from my Father. Discovering others equally enamoured of this self same passion only helped to fan the flames. The fact that concert photography is my favorite subject to shoot should be earth shattering news to absolutely no one. I mean, an opportunity to meld my love of live music with my love of photography? Who knew?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit right here and now that not all photographs appeal to me, either on an intellectual or artistic level. Which isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate the symmetry of a close up shot of a stack of drainage tubes taken side on, repeating the perfect symmetry of their round, gaping maw. It’s just that I’ve never been able to see that kind of photograph.
That might sound kind of strange, but, when you are taken with the photography bug, you tend to look at everything in life as though you were looking through the viewfinder of a camera. As such, when you are sitting in a particular location without a camera you are very likely to regard life unfolding before you and thinking “Man, I could get a fantastic photograph of that if only I was sitting over there.”
It’s a curse, I’ll allow you that, but a curse that tends to keep folk truly born for the lens sharp.