tom_neel
Tom Neel

My dearly departed Aunt Dottie was a professional photographer. There was never a shortage of wonderful framed portrait photographs around, especially of my beautiful mother and my brother David and me. Later in life she took up painting and I must admit, while her talent as a photographer never translated to her paintings, she certainly enjoyed herself.

Then I can remember my brother then taking up photography.  You have to think back on a time when cameras were expensive, as was film and processing.  We also had Polaroid cameras and other Instamatic type cameras, but his was a real 35mm.  If not for my brother, my early days of motorcycling would just be mental memories.  But because of his hobby, I can trace it back to the first new motorcycle I bought in 1973. Pretty cool.

My turn came next, when I purchased a Canon AE-1 around 1978.  It was the latest greatest thing from Canon back then, because it was the first SLR camera with a microprocessor and several other technological advances. One memory I have with this, my first real camera, was holding it and a bee landing on my hand, startling me and dropping it.  Thankfully it landed on the edge of the lends which had a filter on it, saving me from disaster.

The bug had bitten me though and I was a crazed young man who fell in love with photography.  Over the next three or four years I dropped north of $10,000. on purchasing two Canon F-1s, a Mamiya 6X7 large format and many lenses. I developed my own color transparencies too. One must think back on this being both over 30 years ago and single focal length lenses were still the thing.  Zooms were more or less a new thing and not thought of as quality.

Time marched on, as have cameras and digital came to be. I can recall when Linda and I worked for a fine art publisher, seeing my first digital camera.  It was such new technology and could only be used in a studio.  The camera itself was the size of an old video camera.  It was on a tripod with a cable coming out the back and it made its way across the floor to the memory banks that would fill up a living room.  It makes me chuckle how far we’ve come.

My last trip to Europe with film, about 15 years ago, netted me a processing bill of $900. and soon after, I purchased my first digital camera, a 3 mega pixel Fuji with some memory and an extra battery, all for $1,200.  Since, I’ve purchased about 10 digital cameras and it’s amazing most of all, how inexpensive memory cards have become.

Today the proliferation of cameras is much like radios of years ago, only they’re way better.  Who would have ever thought the phone would have been the catalyst to a photo crazy world, and not just photos, video too!  It’s amazing today that you can buy a state-of-the-art camera for $400., which not only includes a state-of-the-art video camera, but it also has a phone and a computer included.  Anyone who looks at these devises as expensive is not comprehending how incredibly inexpensive they really are.

Artistically though, what I love today is how people are so freely communicating with a camera. The old principle of a picture being worth a thousand words is not being lost on Facebook, that’s for sure.  One posted photo can brighten someone’s [or hundreds of someone’s] day.  One photo or video can tell us a story, tell us the truth, make a point, expand our minds, start a dialog or debate, make us feel love, or hate, or hungry.  Photography was always important from its inception, but today I dare to say, photography is easily the number one form of artist expression.

The one thing that hasn’t changed, is you must alway focus on the story.  Think of the thousand words you are replacing with every shot you take.  Your photos will mean even more.

Live An Artful Life, Tom