Everyone has a first love. Mine was a Kodak Duaflex II, a camera my grandparents gave to my mother and father when they got married in the 1950’s and my mother later gave to me to play with when I was about 6. I remember my sister and I were “trapped” (in the best sense) along with my grandfather in the backseat of my Dad’s Oldsmobile, making our way across the US to Alberta, Canada on a family vacation to the Calgary Stampede, a trip that seemed exciting yet at the same time endless in the mind of a 6 year old.
After playing with that camera for many miles over many days I vividly recall a stop in Banff National Park, a land of breathtaking snow-capped mountains and frozen glaciers, mountain streams and dense forests located just west of Calgary. I remember the solemn moment of watching my mother load a roll of film into the camera being sure not to let the paper unroll so as to ruin the precious film. She closed the back of the camera carefully, engaged the latch spring and turned the “advancer” (winding knob) as my mother called it, until the number “1” appeared like an apparition in the little round red window on the back of the camera.
She showed me how to carefully frame my intended picture the way I wanted it to look in the viewfinder. I remember looking at a beautiful scene of mountains reflecting into a mirror-like lake for a long time, mesmerized by the beauty before me. When I was ready, she told me to gently press the exposure button on the side being careful to hold the camera quite still when I did.
I remember the joy I felt at the moment I heard the shutter make that familiar satisfying, almost ringing “click”— a sound that I had heard so many times as I played with this magical box of chrome and glass, pressing the button as scenes appeared through the windows of the car as the miles had passed us by. For me making this first photograph remains a perfect solitary moment exquisitely preserved in my mind and infinitely suspended in time.
I remember several months later seeing the pictures after they came back from the Big V Drugstore, thinking how magical it was that there in my hand, on a little square piece of paper with beautifully scalloped edges was that breathtaking moment I had witnessed; carefully preserved in shades of black and white. While I regret that my picture and others from that early family adventure were lost in a flood in my parents’ basement a few years later, the thrill of that moment when I first pointed a camera at something important to me and making a photograph of it has never left.
Who knew at the time how this seminal moment would change my life.