More than a piece of equipment

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

I had my camera stolen some time ago. And since I’m not one to get hung up on stuff, I pretty much glossed over losing a piece of equipment. After all, it’s just a thing that, with the right amount of blood or an unneeded organ sold, could easily be replaced.

But lately, particularly after learning about the 27th annual Juried Photography Exhibit at the Suffolk Art Gallery, I’ve been thinking about what a camera means, or rather, what my camera meant to me.

When you’ve had a particular camera for a certain length of time, it’s not just a piece of equipment, it’s a small closet for your life experience.

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So, my camera wasn’t just a camera. My camera was for photographing late-night entrees for a restaurant and getting to eat all four after the shoot. (I mentioned that I have diabetes, right?)

My camera caught the early morning after a wild Halloween party in Arlington, when a huge bird flew off with a piece of my breakfast after I took its picture. It recalled the smell of the hot dog vendor mixed in with the funk from subway vents in front of the Guggenheim museum in New York. It reminded me of both the amazing view atop the Sears Tower in Chicago and the peculiar smell of chocolate chip cookies just outside The Chicago Theater.

Most importantly, my camera was the closet for the deaths of my grandmother and my mother.

When I’m asked whether I consider myself a photographer, I usually say I can take a good picture every now and then, but I’m no photographer. I dabble in the technical side of what it means to make a good photograph and have every intention of exploring it further, but I don’t consider myself there yet.

However, I will say this to the entrants in the Juried Photography Exhibit, I aspire to be a full-fledged photographer of your caliber. Because even though I’m not technically sound as a photographer yet, I have the art in my heart. And since it is said that photography is a technical art, I’m at least halfway there.

But if having a solid connection with my equipment and missing that stolen camera of mine are part of being a true photographer, I’d say I’m closer still.

I can’t wait to see the work on display at the exhibit. Because the only thing as enriching as developing one’s own closet of experiences through taking pictures is observing the development of others.