Thursday, July 31, 2008

America's New Pastime

Kalimar A, America's pal In preparation for Argust 8 next week, I took my "newest" junker camera out for a walk today, a Kalimar A. I admit to not knowing much about brands and makers, and only after the purchase have I found out that Kalimar makes lenses and modern camera and such, certainly things that look less quirky than this one. In fact, it was the trifecta of the Kalimar's innate quirkiness, the reputed lomographic quality, and my own junklust that made me get it.

I spent many weekends in college wandering around the campus grounds with my little plastic point-and-shoot, trying out various ways to get creative with the buildings and grounds. I've got albums of near-identical shots of "The Science Building" and "the pond off-campus" and so on. I miss those photo walks, and have started doing them again over lunch. Attitudes about someone walking around with a camera, snapping random pictures has changed a lot in the intervening years, though.

Maybe I'm just projecting my own dislike of being photographed on others, but I feel very exposed, wandering around the city center, taking pictures on a film camera. Maybe it's still post-9/11 paranoia. I did get approached once by a pair of ladies asking what I was taking a picture of (an angel statue near a brick labyrinth), and I felt almost apologetic. "I just got this old camera, I'm just trying it out, seeing how it works, etc.." I shuffled away from there quickly all the same, as I imagined trying to explain that to the local police.

Is paranoia America's new pastime? And what will this mean when I'm hauling around a C-3 that looks like a barely-disguised block of C-4?


Anonymous said...

Flckr has some sort of 08.08.08 event: probably pictures taken on that day. The Chinese believe this to be very lucky number and is the beginning of the Olympics. But Argus 08 is very clever too.

Olivander said...

I'm extremely sociophobic and self-conscious about taking pictures in public. But I have noticed that what camera you carry affects the way people react to you. People look at me with suspicion (at least, that's how I perceive it) when I'm out with one of my smaller cameras*.

But when I have the big ol' Mamiya C330 TLR with its prism finder and left-hand trigger grip attached, people assume that I am a Serious Photographer. Since I am usually out over my lunch hour while wearing my dress work clothes and a tie and around downtown, they must assume that I am a staff photographer for Mayo. They clear a path. They apologize for straying into frame. They let me photograph in places I would not normally be allowed to. (Mind you, I have never misrepresented myself in that way, but I won't correct their assumption unless they ask point-blank.)

So it seems that the more obvious you are, the more likely people are going to assume that you are a professional. I suggest carrying a whole bunch of unnecessary equipment; perhaps a light meter around your neck, a branded backpack or vest with lots of pockets, and a big Canon neckstrap clipped to your little plastic camera.

* The Brownie Hawkeye Flash is an exception. It almost never fails to attract admiring comments from strangers. Most along the lines of "My parents used to have one of those."

mpclemens said...

Subtlety is not your friend, huh? Well, something to remember, although I don't know how comfortable I am being so overtly conspicuous.

I bet I wouldn't turn heads if I was using a camera phone.