When I was a little girl, I became fascinated with photographs. I have many stories about my early fascination/obsession with recording things using various mediums.
This particular one is the story of how I came to notice that the photos we took with my parents’ 110 format point-and-shoot camera were of remarkably lesser quality than the photographs in the 1-inch-thick Sears catalog I adored, although I certainly didn’t possess the vocabulary to express that at the time.
What did possess, was an itching to use a camera! So, I took the old 110 from it’s high shelf in the foyer where my mom stashed her purse (I wonder if it was up on that shelf so as to be where I couldn’t reach it? Oh well!), and began the task of photographing my toys and the toys of my siblings. “I had better catalog these, like Sears,” I thought.
Now, there was a lot I didn’t know about photography back then, and there was no such thing as digital; much less, an auto-exposure on the cheap, little 110 viewfinder camera. That means a lot of things: 1) The flash had one auto setting, and when fired, it always blasted out the same amount of light, no matter how close one was to the subject. 2) It had one focus setting – basically from infinity to about two feet – which means anything closer than two feet would be out of focus. 3) Since it was a viewfinder, what you framed in the little plastic window was slightly higher and to the right of what was actually lining up with the lens (and therefore, the film). What this meant, was that if you were too close to your subject, you could actually completely miss having them in the frame!
All I had by way of an instruction manual was the Sears catalog itself. I studied the images carefully, and discovered that the most important thing for photographing toys is that they are framed tightly – nothing is in the background, and they completely fill the frame. So I knew all I had to do was put the camera very close to my subject matter – right?!
Well, consider the above camera limitations, and take a guess at how successful I was.
Needless to say, when my mom picked up her developed film from the corner Revco (a pharmacy chain we had in Cleveland, now CVS), she flipped through the prints of my sister’s First Communion, our school Christmas pageant, my brother receiving his new toy BB gun, smiling and nodding to herself, and then suddenly stopping when she saw things like this:
My favorite thing to remind my mother about the early encouragement of my career is all of the times she would come back from Revco, and yell, “Sarah! Quit wasting film!”
But then again, she and Dad did put me through film school. Thanks, Parents.
(top to bottom the photos are entitled, “Michaelangelo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Next to Candles on Coffee Table, Parts I & II,” “Barbies on Large Orange Chair.”)