How this mild mannered, middle-aged woman, strikes fear into the hearts of good people everywhere by wielding a lomo camera.
You know how it is. You’ve got a new camera and you’re anxious to try it out. You want to photograph a variety of objects and scenes; inside and outdoors, nature and portraits, color and black and white, at different times of day…
My new Lubitel 166+ arrived. Being an inexperienced photographer, and afraid I might damage it, I did nothing the first day but admire the camera and read the manual – and try to convince myself to trust the leather strap (if you’re not supposed to use those metal wire clips, why do they send them?).
2nd Day: I loaded the film, put the camera in the soft, padded lunch box that I use for a camera case, and set out to take my first photo during my lunchtime walk. It was a work day. I was a little forlorn to be in the industrial part of town; but desperate to take a photo. The sky was gray and cloud-filled. Not 100 yards from the office door, I spotted the skeleton of a tree against this sky and decided to go for it. My intention was to take all the time in the world (within the half hour allotted for lunch) to focus; to spend enough time thinking about aperture and shutter speed, and dialing in those focus rings, so that I would feel super confident about the shot.
Okay well, for those of you who don’t know, getting a shot of a distant tree top with a twin lens reflex is a bit of a challenge. I stood across the street from the tree. I had to lift the camera over my head, and hold it upside down. Focusing seemed pretty much out of the question, but I made an attempt. It took several awkward minutes, and in the end I just clicked the shutter and hoped for the best like I always do. At that time, a women came up from the parking lot behind me and said, “Hi.”
“Hi.” I answered, assuming she was escaping her office for a walk too.
“Hey”, she said. “What are you doing?”
I was smiling, and told her that having a camera with me made my walk more exciting.
“Do you work around here?” she asked.
“Right there”, I pointed.
“You take pictures of buildings?”
“No. I was taking a photo of that tree.” I’m expecting any minute now she’ll ask to take a closer look at my odd camera (the manual said this would happen). It occurs to me to ask to take her portrait; but she is neither pretty nor ugly.
As she walks back to her building it dawns on me slowly… She wasn’t being friendly. She was suspicious! My goodness, I had not realized the depth of corporate intrigue lurking in Sparks, Nevada.
I move on to photograph a railway sign. I make a hasty shot; too aware of the drivers passing by. They are watching me. As if I am a criminal.
It reminded me of a few weeks before…I was taking my first night shots with the Horizon, standing at the base of someone’s long driveway. I was attempting to photograph a bright display of X-mas lights with no flash and no tripod. At the same moment that I was leaving, a young man opened the front door of the house and stood in the entry watching me – with what must have been suspicion too. I became aware that with it’s hulking black plastic body and protruding handle, the Horizon could look like a new-age gun. From a distance, it could.
I should have explained myself, “Hi. I was just taking a photo of your lovely Christmas lights with my new camera. I hope you don’t mind.” It would have been the polite and right thing to do. But I walked quickly to my car and could still feel his eyes on me as I drove away. Do you think he lost sleep that night and bought an alarm system for his home, expecting I was scoping out the house to burglarize it later?
In your day-to-day photo-taking adventures, does this sort of thing ever happen to you? Is it the camera, or my gray hair or bulky coat that are threatening? Are we expected to knock on doors, disturb people’s dinners, and ask permission to photograph Christmas mas lights? If there is an established code of “photo-taking etiquette” – please direct me to it. While we’re at it – any tips for discreet focusing?
I know I don’t need to ask permission to photograph a tree in an industrial part of town; but now, I can’t help wondering about the woman who addressed me… What is she hiding?