When I was little, there was a darkroom off the living room – I’m pretty sure it had once been a closet. It was my father’s darkroom, built with his own two hands. There was a red light, and there was equipment and paper in there, and it smelled of chemicals that I came to associate with my dad and with grownup stuff. My dad carried his camera pretty much everywhere when I was little – it may or may not have been a Minolta. Whatever the camera was, he took some truly bitchin’ black and white photos, and he processed them himself (I was really impressed by this when I was little – I still remain impressed, to be honest) over the course of my childhood, in a series of smallish rooms cordoned off in every house we lived in. When the digital age arrived, he moved on to digital cameras, of course, and the darkrooms disappeared. At some point he picked other hobbies,* and really only shoots pictures now at family events or when he and my mom go on vacation. They’re still really good pictures, just not as many.

Me, I never got into photography that much. When I was thirteen, I ended up with a Minolta that had once been my dad’s. I dropped it directly on its lens onto a brick sidewalk in Princeton, NJ, and the cap got jammed so tight it had to be taken to a camera shop to get fixed, and I had to borrow two weeks of allowance in order to do it. I brought the camera home from that outing in tears – I was mortified, and also afraid to pick it up ever again. I think I shot something like two rolls of film, all told. When my son was born, I shot lots of pictures for, like, two years – but I never had the money to develop them,** and once it became apparent that I took pictures and never developed them, I stopped taking pictures altogether.

But now, zomg, I got a phone.

Man Cub needed a phone – what with entering high school in the autumn, and the urge to get out of the house that naturally infects everyone right around age thirteen, it was time to add a line onto our plan. So he got my nigh-unbreakable phone with the screw-in back, and for ninety-nine cents plus tax (and the cost of an Otterbox, because I drop shit, like, all the time) I was ushered into the digital age with an iPhone. Which has a camera.

A camera that takes pictures that I don’t have to pay to develop \o/ So I’ve been playing around with it incessantly (even shooting video!****). And I’ve discovered Instagram, which has disarmed all my best techniques to avoid hipsterdom, and created a convert out of me – I love it so much.

And it feels like something new has opened up for me, and it doesn’t cost anything. I’m thrilled. While I may not have the natural eye my father has for pictures (my brother really got that eye for photos), I feel like now that there’s so little risk, I can learn, playfully and on my own time, how to take a picture. The relief is glorious.

***

*He’s super into model trains again (he was really into them when I was little – a layout took up most of the basement in the first house) – he now has the entire second floor of the house my parents live in dedicated to the trains.
**At some point, my mom took pity on me, and we brought forty-five rolls of film to the CVS together, where she paid to have them developed. Again, I was mortified.
Simply, it’s the high cost of things I find pleasure in that cuts me to the quick. I remember years ago, I had a hand-me-down guitar that someone had given me, and it broke.*** I found myself on the phone with a friend, pouring my heart out because I had finally found something I could do that made me feel good and was free, and it was broken now. It hurt so bad, I still feel it now. At some point I will write an entry about the importance of art being economically accessible.
***If the guitar is meant to be strung with nylon strings, please string it with nylon. Otherwise it will snap in two at some point when you don’t see it coming. It’s terrible. In my own defense, that guitar came with no history, so I didn’t know that it was made for nylon strings.
****More on this later – I’m working on Something.

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