Thursday, July 4, 2013

Camera, Part 1: Pentax K1000

When I was eight years old, my uncle gave me my own camera for Christmas: a Pentax K1000. I started out shooting slide film because my uncle did, and I suspect that I created box after box of very poor slides (which I no longer have). But over time, I learned how to operate the camera correctly—how to adjust f-stop and shutter speed, how to focus, how to judge the light, and later, how to use a tripod and shutter release cable and flash. My Pentax turns thirty this year, and it is still in perfect working condition. It can still take photos as well as it did the day I first opened the box.

The Pentax traveled with me to Russia in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as to Egypt, Estonia, Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, and countless camping and hiking trips and travels in the U.S. I have thousands of prints. Here is just one, taken in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

When I studied photography and journalism in college, I used the Pentax. I shot in black and white, developed my own film, and for a short period practically lived in the engrossing world of the darkroom, spending days in near darkness making prints. Most of these were of my Southern California of the mid-1990s. Somewhere I still have thousands of negatives with proof sheets as well as hundreds of black-and-white prints like this one.

The Pentax hasn’t had film in it in over five years. I’ve been thinking about teaching my daughter—who is eight—how to use it. Like me, she would learn to load the film, to manually adjust f-stop and shutter speed, to focus, to put thought behind each image. And yet, with the availability of digital point-and-shoot cameras, the high-quality images almost instantly splayed across computer monitors, the extraordinary storage capacity to record our every waking moment with thoughtless abandon, I wonder if she will ever appreciate the magic of shooting pictures with care and forethought, manually rewinding the film, mailing it or dropping it off to be processed, and then waiting with impatience and hope for the slides or the prints to be ready, to finally see how well the captivating image in the viewfinder has been captured in the physical artifact.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, I got a Pentax K1000 two weeks ago from a friend when he heard I was getting into film photography. Within a week I found a "broken" one on craigslist and fixed it with a little lube. My wife nearly hit me (I was only supposed to get a lens). I am in love with this camera. I have put 5 rolls of film through it already (with a roll in each one right now). I don't have any kids yet, but I yearn for the day I can introduce them to film.