Little Leica

Annie Liebowitz is on “America Masters,” a life filled with astounding images that thread though my life, my times, shared experience.  Amazing stuff.

I watch, and I remember when I was young and loved my little leica, a Yashica fixed lens rangefinder with a leaf shutter.  I spent a few years in high school with that camera, filling the yearbook; not my graduation year, but the year before, of course.  Gawd, all the triex I could shoot, the ilford papers with this cheap cheap enlarger and trays balanced on the toilet.

That Yashica was lost, and replaced with an Olympus SLR, great Zuiko glass, solid, almost unknown, but with a big clunk in the focal plane shutter.  I couldn’t be hidden anymore, and that really was an echo of my maturation, no longer being able just to make my pictures.

After that, well, me and the camera fell out, and I went without images.

There were a couple of years selling cameras, and I was good at that, it was fun.  The cameras were just props for the story, though, leading people into the excitement of the technology.

The video paralleled that, from when I got my hands on the first 1/2″ (and even 1/4″) VTRs — my mother freaked when I came home with a few thousand dollars of portapak on me, sure I would destroy it.  But on the TV, the images were second; my vernacular came from studio magazine shows, not from elegant film pieces.  Live TV, live, and lively.

But the images I used to make well, they were still gone and hidden.  It was that Yashica that matched my style, an observer in the hidden open space, just looking and seeing. 

It was finding my own voice.  I own the images now,  but not with a camera.  I went to DiversCite in Montreal, their gay pride, and I felt naked, not because I wasn’t wearing eyeliner, but because I was without a pen. 

I see and fill that “one inch frame” that Annie Lamott talks about in “Bird By Bird,” making little images that can be assembled into something bigger.

I have access to a few digital cameras, but even though they can be silent — one Kodak has a synthasized shutter sound you have to turn off — they don’t have the speed of my little leica, that cheap Yashica.  I love the ability to shoot/shoot/shoot, but the lag, well, the lag is killing.  My PC is a 400 Mhz Celeron with 284 Mb of memory, and as it lags along, well, my head gets banged.

I wonder if I could still make pictures, have even a little tiny shard of that magic that Annie Leibowitz has.  Would they be different now, after the journey from images to lost, to being back to some kind of sense of self.

But tonight, I see the images of Ms. L, and I miss that old Yashica, and the times when I was able to just see and capture.

But life goes on, and we have to get professional at something or other, skilled and focused.

But it’s still there, in the moments we can observe and capture.

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