My Photographic History: The Lost Art of Accidents

For those of us mere mortals, cameras in hand, shooting away, there are times when accidents happen in the most wondrous of ways.
For those of us mere mortals, cameras in hand, shooting away, there are times when accidents happen in the most wondrous of ways.

During my first trip to Greece, when I was a mere slip of a lad, my mother made the mistake of handing me the camera whenever I wanted to take a picture. When we returned from our voyage, we developed the film only to find out that I’d cut off just about everybody’s head in the photos.  Regardless of that snafu, I’m sure we would have looked like dolts anyway, €”1982 haircuts and hairstyles didn’t look cool in 1982 to start with. But part of the fun with cameras back then was waiting for the pictures to come back from the developer.

Facebook is particularly galling for this; there are people with thousands of photos that they simply uploaded lock, stock and barrel, without ever having perused the rotten fruits of their non-labour.

When I first arrived in Korea many moons and suns ago, digital cameras were still a very new thing, and all I had with me was my little Canon Elph Jr. It was a great little thing, able to take wicked panorama shots. But it took APS film, which was essentially the Betamax of cameras at the time. The novelty was that you could remove the film at any time and replace it with another roll, €”which I often did when I wanted B&W shots, €”then put the original roll back in where you left off without exposing, and thus ruining, the film. It also eliminated the need for negative strips.

The problem was that I ended up having to go all the way to Nampo-dong to get my pictures developed, which was an enormous pain in the ass. It must have been equally annoying to the people who worked at that camera shop, because they’d see me walk in and give me a look like: Oh, God, it’s that APS guy again.

I eventually, several years later, got a digital camera in the form of a Sony DSC-F77, which was only available in Asia. It copied the swivel function from Nikon’s Coolpix line, and was a great device for self-portraits long before cameras became standard on cell phones and self-pic mania engulfed the planet.

At this point, the biggest problem with digital cameras was the inability to get affordable memory sticks/cards. The whole point of a digital camera was to be able to take film out of the equation, and to be able to take as many photos as you wanted (and then some). You also got instant gratification, and if a photo was crap, no problem, €”just delete it and try again.

It’s now 2015, the main problem with digicams is that they’ve turned everybody into a two-bit Robert Capa. With all thinking that their pictures are beautiful and unique, while nobody’s taken the time to tell them that they really suck, even with that fake-ass retro Polaroid frame setting. Yes, Yolanda, I’m really happy you had a great time on your epic three-day trip to Jeju, but I really don’t care to see 450 amazingly similar pictures of you sitting on a shit beach.

Facebook is particularly galling for this, there are people with thousands of photos that they simply uploaded lock, stock and barrel, without ever having perused the rotten fruits of their non-labour.

On my first big trip to Europe, I might have taken about 500 pictures, many of which never came out. Of those 500, I’d say 50 were album-worthy, €”the rest were garbage (not that I wasn’t trying). Do us all a favour, people, edit your crap, because nobody has the patience or desire to go through it all.

All of my favorite photos came out of sheer luck or conditions that I had no control over whatsoever.

My wife took this one of my father and I in the kitchen, and you’d think it was an Annie frickin‘ Leibowitz print. The wife knew nothing about the camera, €”much less how to take pictures with it, €”and the results were stunning.

Technology has thankfully gotten to the point now where even a provincial dullard like Yolanda can take pictures that look half-decent, even if she hasn’t figured out that not everything is worth capturing on film/flash media. To quote Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack: Wang, what’s with the pictures, it’s a parking lot!




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