Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986 Part Seven
In addition to having still image cameras, those many trips to garage sales in the 1980s yielded the over-the-shoulder video camera. For a kid it was heavy to carry around much like a pair of golf clubs, but the idea of recording a moving image was still a cool concept. If I remember correctly we had two of them in the 1980s, one was a JVC and the other an RCA.
Upon getting these video cameras, I started to learn at an early age the fine art of video editing. The cameras that we had used a standard VHS tape and if you hit the rewind button and didn’t return to the correct point, you would erase the footage you had before. The only thing digital I recall about the cameras were the fact that you could imprint the date and time on your video. Video cameras have come a long way and are so much better now, but everything has to start somewhere and I spent a lot of hours experimenting with those cameras. Some of the cool features that I remember the most was being able to shoot a split screen and you could also shoot images in black and white as well as color. Several trips to the beach in the 1980s were recorded using these camera “dinosaurs”, but they sure were fun.
Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986 Part Six
In 1985, I turned nine years old and was introduced to a new way to take pictures that had several advantages. Dubbed “The 110”, the Vivatar 110 model camera was flat, light weight, and could fit in your blue jeans pocket. Equipped with the revolutionary Lomography 110 film cartridge, which popped in and out of the 110 camera with minimal risk of overexposure, the Vivatar 110 was the perfect vacation camera and was the source of most of my family photos in the mid 1980s. “The 110” was cheap and much more affordable than other models of cameras and even had a key chain micro version.
Lomography was the original 110, but soon Fuji and Kodak made film for it that was affordable. The big advantage of the 110 was its price and portability. However, “The 110” did not have a zoom lens of any kind and if you shake during the picture, it was blurry. Therefore explaining why some of those family photos in the mid-1980s were almost ghostly looking from the tremble of the photographers hand. Nevertheless, the Hemisfair Arena (a common gathering place for my family during basketball season in the 1980s) appeared very fuzzy and the basketball shots were very out of focus. “The 110” was great for taking to WaterWorld or AstroWorld in Houston during the summers though.
Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986 Part Five
In the early 1980s, it seemed like new and exciting things were coming out in the stores every week. Still many of the treasures and things we had around the house in those days were found by going to garage or estate sales or making a trip to the local swap meet aka flea market. Saturday mornings might include an early wake up to jump in the vehicle and go bargain hunting with the parents for garage sale items we couldn’t live without or just plain junk in my eyes. Those trips to garage sales produced things that we would normally not be able to afford otherwise including video cameras, video game consoles, action figures (Transformers, G.I.JOE, Masters of the Universe, etc.) and yes even still cameras and parts.
Although we couldn’t make up our mind at the time which was better between Betamax or VCR or even Microwave Ovens compared to the old school large ovens, the days of automatic Polaroids were numbered and 35mm still film cameras were “the wave of the future”. Much like Compact Discs were so much more convenient than say LP records or dare I say 8-tracks, 35mm film cameras simply could take better quality pictures than the old automatic instant picture point and clicks.
Despite the fear of overexposure looming large from accidentally opening up the camera, the increased control and experimentation opportunities of film cameras made them exciting to have back then. The 1983 Olympus OM-3 was an SLR camera like my dad’s Minolta with shutter control and exposure timing, but had an even cooler feature known as an automatic lens. This was a huge improvement and big step up from having to do it all yourself.
Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986 Part Four
In the early 1980s movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rambo First Blood, Tron, Mad Max, Tarzan, Escape From New York, Poltergeist, Blade Runner, and Conan were big hits at the box office. When I was not at the movie theater chomping on popcorn or Reeces Pieces enjoying the latest blockbuster cinema sensation, I was spending my time swimming at the local pool, playing pool or video games at the arcade, watching my TV action shows such as Airwolf or Knight Rider, telling ghost stories over a camp fire at the lake, or playing team sports in either basketball, football or soccer. Somewhere in the midst of all those entertainment choices, I still managed to enjoy hearing my parents tell stories about their younger days. One day while doing chores and cleaning around the house, my father opened up some old boxes with his Army uniform from Vietnam along with his medals, black and white combat photos, and the journal he kept of all the things going on around him in those turbulent years of the 1960s and early 1970s.
While opening those boxes, one treasure of the past really stood out. My dad had owned and used a Minolta 35mm camera from the 1960s that was equipped with a flash unit and a leather camera case. Among the many responsibilities my father had in the US Army including Military Police and as a field medic, my father was a journalist and photographer. He wrote down on paper all the things he saw and even more remarkably caught many of the most dramatic images of war on his Minolta 35mm camera. Although that camera was ancient compared to cameras sold at department stores in the early 1980s, it had a magical kind of quality to it that seemed to fascinate a young one’s mind. I dusted that old Minolta off with some Pledge and a towel and further cleaned up its glass parts with Windex. Soon, that relic of a bygone era became my first 35mm camera and I was thrilled to have it. The best part of the deal was…it was free.
Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986 Part Three
Exit political stage Jimmy Carter and the 1970s and we have arrived at the Ronald Reagan 1980s. While the hostage crisis in Iran was over with the arrival of a new decade and the lines at the gas pump were not as long as they were a few years before, we the people who love photography were still very much in the age of film cameras. Film cameras required patience and anticipating problems before they would occur such as the looming threat of light exposure to your roll of film. It was the photographers biggest source of stress and for a young kid that opened up the camera too fast without winding the film first, a great reason to get grounded.
There was some optimism in this age of fear of over exposure of film, we in the 1980s had a thing called Fox Photo labs to help with those stress levels. My parents entrusted me with the family cameras at an early age and my first unofficial job was to take “quality” pictures of the family. Fox Photo labs were very small buildings that stood out like a soar thumb and were a blessing to someone in the 1980s that needed to get their film developed quickly. In fact, it was the quickest service for film developing we knew of and yes it was very expensive for those days.
Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986 Part Two
As I mentioned in my first post, my lifelong journey with photography all began with that simple to use Polaroid camera. There were other fascinating cameras that hit the market in the 1970s and early 1980s that drew my attention. KODAK, the same company noted for making film for cameras, made its own cameras as well. The very Vintage 1970s Kodak Colorburst 250 Instant Photo Camera was another fun gadget that my family used in those early years.
Much like “The Polaroid”, our Kodak Colorburst 250 had a flash unit and could process a picture instantly sliding out of the side of the camera. The electronic flash for the Kodak Colorburst 250 was built into the camera and there was even a switch for light and darker settings. Unfortunately, the flash had a very limited range making even first and second grade graduation pictures look very dark in an otherwise fairly lit building. However, the Kodak Colorburst 250 just looked “cool” to a young kid in the late 70s and early 80s and the idea of instant pictures was just plain “awesome”.
Why Do We Love Photography? A Thirty Somethings Photographic Journey. The early years 1976-1986. Part One
A lot of things have changed in our world since my youth, but my enjoyment of photography has not. The first camera I ever picked up was a one step Polaroid Land Camera with flash bulbs mounted across the top. It was an extremely easy camera to use because it required pushing one button, looking through a simple viewfinder, and developed the picture that I snapped on the spot without having to make a trip to get my film developed.
I still remember my parents using what they dubbed as “The Polaroid” to record some of my important firsts such as walking and talking in place of video recording equipment which we didn’t have the luxury of owning. “The Polaroid” was a God send for a low budget family in the mid to late 1970s with an ex-Army Drill Sergeant turned car salesmen “Dad” and civilian computer programmer “Mom” at the helm. At the early age of five breaking from my newly formed normal routine as a class clown in Catholic elementary school, mom and dad taught me to use “The Polaroid” and the fascination with photography and cameras of all shapes and sizes was launched. A toast to you for starting the journey “The (almighty) Polaroid”.