Of Six Bags and eighteen cameras
Photographers love stuff. You're not just what you eat, you are (used to be) what you carry. 'Were' because I think that to a great extent the Photographic System, i.e. the industry and its captive users, has collapsed into four philosophies of choice:
- Tweedledee & Tweedledum, Canon and Nikon, basically the same. They offer corporate competence and size, reliability, blandness and ever more complexity of products dragging you further and further away from your subjects; closer and closer to every other photographer. A community of comfort; the comfort of conformance.
- A bunch of also-rans trying to either catch up (an impossible task resulting only in more of the same). A community of the almost also.
- A few companies struggling to remain small but profitable, searching for a steady niche audience willing to die for (and buy) their ideals; offering quirkiness, novelty, daring, insanity, and some interesting ideas about how to make cameras and how cameras should make pictures and how photographers can adapt and absorb cameras. A community of idealistic, confused, soloists.
- A Somachine (aka smartphone — see 3.2: Hello, Hello, Can You Shoot Me Now?), the anti-camera, mostly not to be confused with the anti-Christ, but also drawing you into the pre-post-post modern (said slowly it make sense) world of what the picture might become. A community of everyone, arms straight out — zombies selfie-ing the world.
When I had to make money with a camera, had to make the shot every time, I went with Nikon. When I didn't, I had more fun and real feelings for my cameras (not always positive). It’s a tradeoff. Sometimes it's not "the road less taken," it's "where the fuck is the road?"
I really love my stuff, stuff I put my hands on regularly. School supplies, pens (fountain, ball, or marker? Fine, Medium or Bold?), pencils (automatic or wood? 2B or 2H?, eraser on the pencil or in your hand?), notebooks (between sizes, lines vs. grids, quality of paper and cover, etc., too many permutations to name), cars (sports? convertible? 2, 4, 5 seats? manual or automatic? practical or mid-life crisis?), pocket knives (you don't want to know). You get the idea. At the beginning, choice is freedom, and the exercise of freedom is an American duty. But unless you are careful, choice can be paralyzing - think supermarket cereal aisle. Or it can be a crutch - if I spend more on a new (whatever), I will make better (whatever it makes).
Age and experience settles one down with a favorite pen or pencil (anything that holds a Cross fine, blue refill, the Staedtler norica HB-2 wood pencil, black body, white eraser) and notebooks (Moleskin 8.25” x 5”, lined, blue paper covers for traveling; assorted Rhodia grid pads for general notes, Leuchtturm 1917 12.5” x 9”, hard gray covers, 120 numbered pages, dotted 5/inch for serious writing at a table). One also settles down with a camera and lens (Fujifilm XPro-1, 35mm f/1.4 Fujinon). But first, one should be precocious. Why would you marry your first date?
Nothing offers so many choices as photography, and all photographers fall in love. My guess is the more serious the photographer, the more permutations they run through. Before falling deeply for a single camera, lens, and bag, I was fickle, changing everything in intense fits a number of times, always for one of the same reasons: (a) The (camera, lens, bag) that I have can’t do what I need it to do. (b) I'm bored. That may sound trite, but being bored with an essential tool is really an existential issue - is it me or is it the tool? Should I quit or should I shop?
Every bag requires a camera to make it feel needed, useful, sheltering. While I have had only six bags, there have been 18 cameras, and some never did get a bag of their own.
You can’t tell the players without a scorecard:
Camera and sensor:
1. Yashica Twin Lens Reflex, 120/220 film
2. Nikkormat, 35mm film
3. Cambo rail, 4 x 5 film
4. Mamiya 645, 120/220 film
5. Polaroid SX-70, SX-70 film
6. Hasselblad Super Wide, 120 film
7. Nikon Ftn, 35mm film
8. Minox GL, 35mm film
9. Minolta-Leica CL, 35mm film
10. Leica M6, 35mm film
11. Leica Digilux 1, digital
12. Leica Digilux 2, digital
13. Leica MP, 35mm film
14. Epson RD-1, digital
15. Sigma DP-1, digital
16. Sigma DP-2, digital
17. Fujifilm X-100, digital
18. Fujifilm X-Pro 1, digital
0. No bag - camera carried around neck or over a shoulder, film in a pocket
1. Nikon shoulder, full leather insanity
2. Large, heavy particle board box covered in blue paper printed with a pseudo-cloth pattern
3. Tenba, burnt orange shoulder
4. Domke F-5XB (medium) shoulder
5. Domke F-5XA (small) shoulder - 2 of them, 5a and 5b
6. Black Label "Oskar's One Day Bag Mark II", shoulder
Camera 1, Bag 0
Camera 1 was a gift of the universe as channeled thru my 18 year old, three months and three thousand miles from home budget as perceived by the first bubbling up of my crow-brain*. It's the only camera not bought on picture-purpose, not wholly a function of my life and personality at the time. Camera 1, without a bag, was a Yashica twin lens reflex bought in a pawnshop in San Francisco. I was in the middle of a summer-long camping trip with another guy when I realized that I wanted to shoot vacation pictures of the Rockies and had no camera.
So first camera preceded first bag by a number of years. Knowing nothing, I actually picked out a pretty good camera, but one that didn't have a light meter. At the time Kodak boxes for 120 film recommended the 'Sunny 16' rule; sunny day, use f/16 at a shutter speed of 1/film ASA (now ISO). The light meter came after I got home, but not right away.
One nice thing about vacation film is that it was 6 or 8 weeks before I found out that a normal lens, long distances and small, drugstore prints do not add up to Ansel Adams (who I hadn't heard of yet). The pictures told me all I needed to know. Beautiful landscape photographs were not an intuitive part of me. Not then, not ever. Better to just be present and enjoy them.
Camera 2, Bag 1
Camera 2 was a 35mm Nikon SLR. I can't remember why I bought the low end Nikkormat instead of an ‘F’ but I made up for it with Bag 1, a spectacularly dumb purchase. It was a full, hard, brown leather Nikon shoulder bag with removable insert trays for filters and accessories, immovable compartments for a body + lens, a wide angle, and a longish lens, was fully brass zippered and completely lined in green felt more suitable for a London madam’s snooker table, cost a fortune, and spent most of its life on a closet shelf. It was impressive and screamed "I have more money than common sense." Eventually closet rot destroyed the soft leather strap.
Cameras 3, 4, 5, & 6; Bags 2 & 0 again
Grad school was 4 x 5 Cambo view camera, rail not folding which might have made sense, but I was still a stubborn idiot (I think much of the idiot part wore off over time); a Polaroid SX-70 because the camera was new and film was mostly free to art students; and a Mamiya 645 with a wide angle lens, and then, when it broke, a Hasselblad Superwide, unused used (Doctor’s trophy camera).
I did a longish series of anti-landscapes with the Cambo and some mirrors that eventually became my thesis show. It traveled in Bag 2, a chipboard box, and a large one at that. It held the camera, lens, a few film holders, light meter, dark cloth, and my deep embarrassment. I believe, and will defend it, that I bought the 4 x 5 after starting Edward Weston's Daybooks, but before I got to the part where you find out he always hired some boy to lug the damn thing around. From thesis show until I sold it several years later, the 4 x 5 never left my front closet. My loss was some young photo student with dreams in his eyes gain when I sold it, 'like new' cheaply. There are no surviving negatives or prints, not missed, not mourned.
Camera 4 was a Mamiya 645 that replaced the view camera. That is, it had a larger than 35mm format but was a comparative breeze to carry. I got away with a lighter tripod, no dark cloth, no tray film developing, no fuss, no muss, no loss. Loved it right up to the time it jammed, too young, but too expensive and time consuming to fix.
But grad school, like many good things, came to an end far too quickly. I had spent 12 wonderful years as an undergrad, thoroughly exploring a large university, moving from department to department, internal college to internal college, learning life lessons about history, girls, writing poetry, drugs, philosophies, and rock & roll. Grad school was over in two years and I had barely settled in when I had to go back to working a regular job.
Camera 5, the Polaroid SX-70 was fun - mostly I just tortured the film to make abstracts, but I also used it to make collages with Camera 6, a Hasselblad Superwide, (details below) where I would shoot the same scene with both cameras from the same spot, then try to line some piece of the content of the Polaroid up with that of a 18 x 18 B&W print from the Superwide, which contained much more context. The B&W was made on 20 x 24glossy, plastic paper with borders and surface proportional to those of the Polaroid print that was glued on the surface. Each collage one of a kind, each pointing out some more or less obvious contradictions about lenses and eyes, photographs and minds.
That Camera 6, the Hasselblad Super Wide, was the most extravagant, most beautiful, most limited and coolest camera I’ve ever had. It is a fixed, distortion-free, 32 mm wide angle lens on a chopped and channeled Hasselblad 500 C, no reflex viewing, just a snazzy chrome eyepiece viewfinder, a bubble level, and a 2 1/4 roll film back. Basically a lens board, a lens with a built in leaf shutter on one side and a film holder on the other. And endless depth of field - about 2' to infinity at f/16, sharp, sharp, sharp; bright and sharp right into the corners. The angle of view is that of a 20 mm lens on a 35mm camera, or a 12 mm lens on an APS-C size sensor, but with the spatial characteristics of a 32, and no horizontal or vertical distortion if kept level.
A speciality camera for architectural work and wide angle freaks if ever there was one; easy to carry around, quick and silent in use on the street. For the few years I used it before selling it for nearly twice what I paid for it, there was nothing like it. All cameras are totems if you let them be. Some totems whisper in your ear, some are dowsing rods for finding their pictures. The Super Wide caresses your hand when you hold it; it holds you in return.
Cameras 7, 8, & 9; Bag 3
Camera 7 was a Nikon Ftn, the top of Nikon’s line at the time. Heavy, strong, nearly indestructible, it was the camera of choice for photojournalists, so I had to have (at least) one when I went to work for a group of weekly papers in the suburbs and rural towns north of Detroit. Unlike many newspapers, there were no house cameras or lenses, and no reimbursement budget. I had three cameras in my bag - the F, the Nikkormat, and a tiny but full frame fold-out lens Minox-GL.
At Lions games I was sadly underlensed and had to settle for plays closer than 20 yards. Much of my sideline time was spent being jealous of the shooters from bigger papers with bigger lenses, but while they spent half-time in the darkrooms getting processed film out to their papers, I was upstairs eating with the writers, and food for the press is one thing the NFL does right. On the other hand, at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, 1988, which I could cover because there was no travel or housing costs for my paper, corporate Nikon, friend of professionals, was way upstairs in Cobo Hall, offering to lend any lens to any credentialed press photographer with a Nikon body to hang it on, so I got to play with the big boys and big toys.
The Nikons performed, always. The Ftn survived the immense amount of sweat that showered me when Bob Lanier, the 6' 10", 250 lb. Detroit Piston's center, didn't quite fall on top of me, sitting under the basket looking up for that great shot. He stopped just short by bracing his arms on either side of me, but Newton's laws of motion drove his load of sweat right through my clothes. I smelled like the Piston's laundry cart for the rest of the night, which made getting space to shoot easier than usual. The edge of the Nikon was dinged against something, and the body was proudly dented ever after when the black wore off and the brass shined through.
The Nikons survived a jostling, fully engaged crowd at a boxing match, and a careful but quick search by the Secret Service at that convention. They survived the boredom of school board meetings and the Friday night hustle to cover four high school football games. The Ftn shot roll after roll with an auto winder - 2.5 shots a second, 14 seconds for a 36 exposure roll, a burn time that made Kodak happy.
Camera 8, the Minox GL, was a pseudo-spy camera. It was an emergency backup that I occasionally used to take pictures where pictures weren't allowed, but I was younger and braver then and possibly did not fully understand the concept of 'contempt of court.'
I was a news photographer for a few years. I was good, but not great; interested but not captivated. I learned a lot, including that I didn't want to be a news photographer. I was an emerging art photographer. That is, nothing practical, few sales. Back to the Superwide, Nikons in the closet, it’s 1983 and I'm off to science school to see about earning a living. I'm 37, living with Dora in Rochester, NY, capital of photography. So I went back to bag 0, just the camera on a strap, a light meter in one pocket and Plus-X 120 rolls in another. I'm making documents that aren't documentary. I never got the photographer's vest thing, probably because of who I saw wearing them, but I did tend to wear a nondescript jacket with deep pockets. Still do.
Camera 9, the Minolta-Leica CL, was a small, Leica designed rangefinder built in conjunction with Minolta and fitted with a Minolta 40 mm f/2 lens. It had an M mount and could take most Leica lenses except the wide angles that extend inside too deeply. Additionally I had a very small Leica 90 mm f/2.8 lens for it. The CL was a joint project by the two companies for no apparent reason. Given the time difference it must have been tough working together. Silent, rubberized cloth shutter blade. Easy and quick on the street, easily and quickly pocketed. For a street photographer, I was remarkably nervous. Eventually I gave up shooting people for years before getting back into it to challenge myself to dance like Henri Cartier-Bresson and see like Lee Friedlander.
At about $600 new for the body and lens, it was by far the cheapest way to get into Leica territory. Black tape over Minolta label (I am a snob) and away I went. A quick and accurate rangefinder focusing system, very quiet operation, snug in the hand but operable without fumbling or looking, it was just fine until I could afford a real Leica, the M series.
Both 9 and 10, then 9 and 13, the Minolta-Leica CL (#9), Leica M-6 (#10), and Leica MP (#13), rode comfortably in Bag 4 and beyond. Bag 4, like Bags 5 (there are two of them) is by Domke. #4 is medium size, #5s are smaller. All are messenger bag style, black (#4) or green canvas (the 5s), no sparkle, no leather, meant to be unremarkable, water resistant, light, close to the body, and just barely big enough.
All three bags are still alive and well, see the outside occasionally, and were bought from B&H, where much of my money has settled in over the years. They’re narrower than most bags, have two moveable partitions making three spaces inside for a body with lens and maybe two other lenses, but not very long ones. Or one lens and film. More often, just film. A couple of flat, almost useless outside pockets, good for a lens cloth and a small grey card. They hold much less than the Tenba, and consequently are much easier on the shoulder. These were trials at smaller and smaller things to carry, more a place to put the camera for travel and rain than a place for accessories or extra lenses. Paring down. Learning to see with one lens. Trusting yourself. The bags are cheap, mostly waterproof, and sun-fade into obscurity. No one would ever want to steal them. That to me is an essential trait in a bag.
They are the result of switching from Nikon to Leica, from professional back to amateur, from being prepared for every possible situation to knowing what I’m looking for, wanting to ease off my shoulder and walk upright, and needing (and wanting to need) much less. I also wanted to be invisible, just another old man with a small, quiet, non-threatening camera. My outfit was an M6, then an MP (Camera 10), with 28 and 50mm lenses. No flash. UV filters (the light is quite blue this far north). Lens shades always on. A few rolls of film. Not much else. The bag was often left at home or in the car, sometimes using an underside tripod-socket mounted lens carrier for a spare lens. (This is possibly the most bizarre accessory Leica ever made, useful, but I really loved the uncommonness of it). Camera strap (thin, flexible canvas or woven silk threads) wrapped around my right wrist. Unexposed film in the left pocket, exposed in the right.
From here on the quest, and that’s exactly the word, was for smaller and simpler with better image quality and fewer distracting bells and whistles. With nothing to learn, there's nothing to learn.
An aside: The Best Cameras Are Naked
That double desire — to be unnoticed, unthreatening, and to simplify equipment was also a meditation on my relationship to a camera and lens. (One guest photographer at Cranbrook insisted that the best way to learn to see photographically was to limit yourself to a normal lens for a year.) And a meditation on my subject matter. The Leica does that to you and for you by paring the design and functionality down to the essentials, the f/stop, shutter speed, focus and frame. By eliminating everything else, the camera becomes one with your hand, an extension of your eye, and eventually disappears altogether. It is no longer a complex device that needs attention, that comes between you and your subject, that interrupts rather than easing the meld that is necessary for proper seeing. For those of a certain age and background, the term "grok" comes to mind. If it doesn't, leave now and don't come back until you've read Robert Heinlein's 1961 classic, Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s one of the key books that made my generation what it was in the 60s and 70s. After that, we all just became middle class. It's a slippery slope if you aren't paying attention.
During the Leica MP, I started down the digital road, Cameras 11 & 12 and 14 - 18. It took a long time to find one I could work with as comfortably as my Leica rangefinders.
Cameras 11 & 12 were by Leica, thinking that their guys were better than anyone else’s guys, so their cameras would etc. I should have learned that lesson when the company I worked for in the 80s and early 90s was bought by a German company, Agfa Gaveart, that promptly ran it into the ground. (See my article “Technological Substitution and the Death of an Industry” in Technology and Society: An International Journal, 16:1, 1994)
Anyway, they were Leica’s first attempt, the 1 megabyte (yep, one) Leica Digilux 1, the size and shape of a cigarette pack. Then the Digilux 2, which looked like a camera, had a 5 megabyte sensor and a pretty good 35 - 70 (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. I used it but didn’t much like it, and stayed with film for a long time. These were instances of being captivated by the Leica brand. As I moved gingerly from film to sensor, analog to digital, from the crevice between past / present into the future, I assumed the leading companies would remain the same. But nothing remained the same.
You should know about a personality quirk I have long had. It surfaced photographically first when, (1) at Cranbrook I decided to make my own print developers using Dr. Beers formulas (two parts, ten possible ratios for contrast and tone control) and (2) more obviously, by that much-loved Superwide that no one else had a use for, especially the doctor who had paid retail for it.
The very first instance I remember of this quirk was my insistence on not seeing West Side Story (it came out in 1961, I was 15, didn’t see it until my 30s) simply because everyone was seeing it. I take the oddball side journey, often alone, because I believe that the true answer to any question is lies not where the lemmings go, but where the fox hunts by herself. I am looking for the perfect whatever, and I know it’s under a different rock. Like Dora, I'm always ready to take the left turn.
Specials and One-Offs: The Search for Perfection
Let me back off by defining perfection as 'perfect for me', well adapted to my needs and personality at a certain time and place as determined by my photo-brain plus my crow-brain.
Cameras 14 thru 16 are high quality, fun to work with, fascinating digital orphans in the commercial-industrial storm. Camera 14 was the sadly but rightfully now deceased Epson RD-1 (RD being rangefinder-digital, I presume; 1 being superfluous as there was no successor. Epson, rightly famous for printers and scanners, had what I can only think was a midlife crisis (the company was founded in 1942, the camera was mid 90s if I remember right, at about their 50th birthday. A red convertible would have been smarter and cheaper). Built for interchangeable Leica M mount lenses, it was a true rangefinder, shaped like a round-edged brick, APS-C size sensor, only 6 million pixels, but they were sharp, contrasty, beautiful pixels. They succeeded with a (very) few people like me, someone with a few Leica lenses around the house, tired of waiting for the much announced, much delayed, likely priced-for-dentists, Leica digital M.
I used the RD-1 for years, until I saw that the image files, after some passage of time, mysteriously began to self-destruct section by section as Lightroom looked at them, unstoppable and incurable. I have lost all the images I took with that camera, and some were pretty good as they came in my own middle age, when I started really understanding what I was doing. Do I regret not going for competence and conformity, Nikon or Canon? No. I learned from the images and their Snapchat-like destruction was pure Zen. They came, they spoke their piece and left, whether I had paid attention or not.
Cameras 15 & 16. Sigma, corporate motto "Image means everything and nothing", is an interesting company, started in 1961 making nothing but photography products - mostly lenses of ok quality for others' cameras. They could have been any Japanese company on the fringe of the photographic industry, never mentioned in the same breath as Nikon or Canon, or even Olympus and Minolta. But sometime in the 2000's they danced with Foveon, a California sensor company with a radical idea that no one was (or is) much interested in. They put out a few cameras together starting in 2006, and Sigma bought them in 2010.
Cameras 15 & 16 were, still are, the Sigma DP-1 and DP-2, variations of the same idea - a small, fixed, peek-a-boo lens, mirrorless camera with the Foveon X3 sensor, which has a spectacular color reproduction range, contrast to die for, is APS-C size with 14+ megapixels divided into three layers, one each for red, green and blue light, like color film. So each layer has just under 5 megapixels, making each cell larger, therefore less noisy, sharper, more light sensitive, but providing a large file needing less extrapolation. The DP 1 has a fixed 28 mm (35mm equivalent) f/4 lens, the DP-2 has a 41mm (35mm equivalent), f/2.8 lens. They are light, quick, silent with excellent purpose-designed lenses. They make photos as good or better than any camera with a comparable size sensor (APS-C) with truer, more saturated colors. More Kodachrome than Ektachrome, if you know what that means. If you don't, ask a photographer over 60 and spend an afternoon listening.
Small, they are a bit troublesome in the hand and the DP-1 changes settings at a whim. The DP-2 still goes with me when I’m not wanting my ‘serious’ camera. It was in my jacket pocket in Iceland for a week when I was mostly writing this essay and not taking anything but souvenirs. The souvenirs are boring, but of excellent quality.
Technical Sidebar: Digital sensors don't work like color film, positive or negative. Silver halides (silver chloride [AgCl], bromide [AgBr], etc., collectively called AgX) are by nature sensitive only to blue light, and you need to attach complex dyes to the molecules and insert color filter layers above the AgX layers to make film record color properly. Silicon sensors are sensitive to all visible light right from birth, so the primary colors, red, green, and blue, need to be separated from each other and assigned their own pixels or cells in order to record colors (information) instead of just brightness values (data). This separation usually involves a glass filter layer divided into the R, G, & B primaries, one per pixel. The pattern can cause a "beat" effect if the subject has fine lines at the right intervals, similar to the funny look of wagon wheels spinning in an old Western when the frames per second matches a multiple of the spokes' rotational speed. The solution to that is to slightly defocus (excuse me?) the image first and write software to put it back in focus before the customer sees it. If, on a sensor of a give size, millions of pixels are spread out in a single layer, they have to be small to fit. But if you lay the pixels in three layers, like color film does, the same area of sensor and same total number of pixels, each pixel would be three times larger, increasing its sensitivity and resolution, the overall quality of the information. That's the Foveon sensor, used in Sigma and no where else since 2006. Not used for a variety of reasons, especially the cost and the inability to convince average users that it is worth paying for. And perhaps it isn't, but you see why I needed two of them, right?
Camera 17 was the runner up, the older but physically challenged brother to Camera 18. #17 is the Fujifilm X-100, with a 23 mm f/2.0 fixed lens with the angle of view of a 35mm lens but the optical characteristics of a 23. It has, fascinatingly for a collector of quirks, a dual viewing system, both through the lens live view and a rangefinder-like optical finder with focus and framing, along with programmable info for whatever you care to see, including a floating level line which is more useful than you might think.
The Berlin Hauptbahnhof series was done with the X-100 and the 17" by 24” prints simply sparkle. It was the best digital camera I ever used, until the XPro-1 came out.
Camera 18, the XPro-1, the younger, better brother, has interchangeable Fuji (and Zeiss) lenses, the look and geography of a classic rangefinder: aperture on the lens barrel, shutter speed and exposure compensation on dials on the top plate, depth of field indicator in the viewfinder, few buttons, few bells and whistles, and a clever combined optical rangefinder-like and electronic thru the lens viewing system along with live view on the back screen if you happen to need it. Useful with a tripod. It's a camera, like the Leica M series, that can disappear in the hand, never disrupting your immersion in the subject. Like old home week. A very powerful totem.
Bag 6 was (and is) another treat for myself, a Black Label bag called "Oskar's One Day Bag Mark II" (after Oskar Barnack, inventor of the Leica, 1927). It is another narrow, simple messenger bag with movable partitions and lets me carry a body with lens and three other lenses, none very long. After 50 years of searching, it is home to camera 18 and its lenses, or 17 and a light lunch. As the Leica was my final film camera, with nothing else to ask for, the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is my final digital camera, a simple, unobtrusive, low-energy camera with many Leica-like design elements and wonderful, well-made matching lenses. When I die, it is going to John Goodman, a photographer who will know what to do with it.
I saw recently that the XPro-2 is out, and my $1,200 body is selling for closer to $400 as they sweep them into the dustbin of history, camera division. I haven't even looked at what the new one can do. I'm finally done buying cameras. Although I'm headed for Hawaii in May, 2016, and taking with a borrowed Go-Pro to see if we like each other on a long date.
Thoughts about cameras
When you take up a trade you necessarily spend a lot of time thinking about your tools and materials. If you don’t you’re missing out on that special relationship plumbers and mechanics have with wrenches, wood workers have with chisels and gouges, dental hygienists have with curly, sharp scalers and floss, and photographers have with cameras and bags. I have had lots of thoughts about cameras, still do.
There's a cartoon where one character says to the second, "Your camera makes beautiful pictures" and the other says back "Thanks, your mouth makes beautiful words".
Cameras are tools, part of a larger system called Photography. They help us make pictures and restrict the kinds of pictures we can make. Between 1839 and sometime in the 1990s they helped us make pictures that had a special call on Truth, unlike any other technology in history. Pictures tied undeniably to the world we experience thru sight, our most important interface. That's not so true any more, and I'll go there a few times in the course of this Project.
I hesitate to say a camera saved my life, but there wasn't much there worth saving until the camera and I fell for each other as undergrads.
* Crow-brain: that ancient remainder in the brain that is curious about and attracted to shiny, colorful distractions. It is your permanent sense of wonder, it sends messages about taking obscure left turns. Attention should be paid: it retains that time and space when magic hadn't yet become technology.