While taking a course on Design and Development of Educational Technology, I was asked on the last assignment to write about a key event/experience from my childhood where a technology helped me learn. After many thoughts scattered through my mind, realizing the limited technology in the 80’s, I remember the camera. A very important element to my dad, a tool that would shape my childhood. An experience and passion that I took from him. This is a special memory I have from someone who is absent from my life, someone who brought sadder moments later in life. In spite of all, I keep this memory fondly because above all the challenges from this relationship, I am able to see this one with achievement, gratitude, and nostalgia.
The first time I took a photo I was 7 years old, the year that marked my parent’s bitter separation. My dad took me to Disney World, thinking a father-daughter adventure through the Magic Kingdom would vanish the reality of a broken home in the melodies and smiles of iconic “perfect-life cartoons”.
We toured Mickey and Minnie’s house and when we got to the “garage” he handed me his manual “innovative” Nikon. He asked me to close one of my eyes and look through this tiny glass-square. It was Mikey’s red car what I was looking at. He told me to make sure the car was inside the square, and not to cut any parts of this object. As I looked at the car and focused with this heavy device on my hands, he placed my right index finger on the trigger and asked me to press. “Click!”
He took the camera and said, “good, that’s it!”. I wonder what was “it”… where was the image I had focused so carefully into the tiny frame? He reassured I would see the photos later after we “developed them”. That evening he showed me the meticulous process of how-to unwind the little cylinder which would contain all those precious images of a Magic Kingdom.
I was in disbelief of how such a small geometrical item could contain my memories. Finally the evening arrived in hot Florida, and we went to the shop to develop our memories. We waited a few hours while we had supper. We came back, he opened the yellow Kodak envelop, and between a stack of shinny photos there it was, Mikey’s red car!
“It’s perfect”, he said with a proud and nostalgic tone, as I gently grabbed the glossy paper by the corners and amazingly stared at my work. The car was indeed perfectly centered, the colors were alive, the background was intact. That day the camera became a powerful tool in my eyes, one which would be able to hold memories for ever, brining back the feelings of the moment in just a glance. Feeling the weather, the smell, what happened before, after. It was a moment I will never forget, a “Kodak moment” indeed. Coming from a broken home, as a child, I really looked for ways to hold on to those positive, calm moments, which became blurrier in between the chaotic fights and disagreements.
11 years later, in college, my dad gave me his Nikon [which was not as innovative as before]. I was able to take this experience to the next level, the part where you witness the appearance of black and gray inks coming together under a red light, in a lake of transparent acetic acid to form that moment. That instant where perception and composition determine your subjectivity. It was the magic of dark rooms which I enjoyed so much during my photography courses over two semesters.
Nowadays, this mechanical part of photography has been lost with the unstoppable technological era we live in, where digital cameras do everything a photographer had to plan before committing to the “click”. However, like anything and everything, the benefits of the latter one are the immediate ways in which we can rapidly communicate our personal or professional perceptions to the world. Our subjectivity made public. The clue now is not to let the ego drive us to seek reassuring feedback, rather than just keeping that special moment in our cyber world. I see the camera as a true time machine. A very special one which still is the legacy my dad left me.
“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still” – Dorothea Lange