Grandpa’s Camera

My grandpa was a mensch.

I wish I had appreciated him more when he was around, but as a child and young teenager, I was more interested in my friends and myself. By the time Grandpa passed away, I was deep in the beginnings of my eating disorder and depression.

Grandpa had many hobbies: golf, music, and photography. My family used to joke around about how long it took Grandpa to compose a shot. He collected cameras and saved every manual and lens cap. When he passed away, my family simply did not know what to do with his camera collection, so they were given to me.

Most of the cameras still work, and the ones that don’t make good decorations on my bookshelf. My trusty, favorite camera is his Canon AE-1. I’ve been shooting with it for years, but recently, it developed a light leak, rendering it nearly unusable. The rubber seals on the inside of the camera had rotted away, and light was getting onto the film, leaving big streaks of white on the photos.

I looked into buying a new one, but I didn’t trust random eBay sellers. A camera I could have purchased online may have had exactly the same problem or worse. Although film is having a minor comeback, there’s next to nowhere in town where I could go to buy an analog camera in person.

I decided to go out on a limb and take the AE-1 to Clem’s Classic Cameras at the flea market. Clem’s has been around forever, and I’ve spoken with the owner, Russel, a few times. I showed him the camera, and he saw the problem immediately. Within an hour, he’d fixed it. When my boyfriend and I returned to Russel’s kiosk, I handed him my card to pay for the repair. “No cash?” Russel said.

“No, but I can go to the ATM,” I answered.

“Y’know what? Merry Christmas. Have fun!” Russel gave me the camera back, I loaded a roll of film into it, and Chance and I were on our way.

I am normally not a sentimental person. I’m not the type to hang onto a birthday card with a nice message written in it or something like that. However, I do feel sentimental about Grandpa’s camera. I have taken photos of my cousin Sarah’s kids with it, and in a way, it’s like Grandpa gets to see his great-grandchildren.

My brother is getting married to a lovely young lady later this year, and I want to photograph the wedding on film. Although Grandpa never got to meet my brother’s fiancee, he will be there in spirit.

Photography is more to me than simply snapping a pretty picture. It is documenting my life, the people, places, and things in it. It is a skill that I have honed, and now I am passing it on to Chance, my boyfriend. One of the many things I love about Chance is how willing he is to try new things. He’d never been into photography before, but after seeing how passionate I am about it, he decided to give it a whirl. He got himself a Nikon DSLR, and we’ve gone out and about to shoot several times.

I am a Canon photographer myself, so Chance’s Nikon was Greek to me. We took a trip down to Speedway Photo, where Chris develops and prints my film for me. Chris is incredibly knowledgeable about photography and cameras. Anytime I’ve had a problem with a camera, he’s been able to explain and fix it for me. We handed Chance’s camera over, and Chris gave us the rundown of how it works. Shooting on full manual mode is second nature to me, and I feel that it’s the best way to learn, by doing the hard work first. That way, one doesn’t have the flash going off in a dark place unless it’s needed, and one gets the entire experience of taking a photograph with more control.

Life is nearly picture-perfect right now. I am so stable that I’m almost bored. I am thinking of pausing therapy because I don’t have that much to work on anymore. I have a healthy relationship, work is going well, and I even adopted a cat. I don’t have many psychotic symptoms these days, and I’ve discovered that wearing headphones often cancels out the weird noises I hear late at night. I am learning to be okay with myself, and when things don’t work out, I just take another shot.

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