WigHeads1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Here’s Your Damned Number 1

Do you remember that old joke about the Chinese restaurant? The one that ends, “Help! I’m trapped inside a fortune cookie factory.” I thought so.

It dawned on me the other day that, sometime soon, if not already, I will encounter a photographer who has never used actual film. You know, that silver gelatin emulsion stuff we all know and love? Never held it, never touched it, never seen it up close. That day is coming, if it isn’t already here.

While it’s true that I absolutely love to be film free and embrace the new digital revolution, it’s also true that I wouldn’t want to trade in my past experiences with film for anything.

I used to shoot toy cameras. The old school toy cameras that took 120 film.

There’s an interesting trick with 120 film and old cameras. You can tell somebody, over and over again, that there’s a long leader on the film, but they won’t really believe you. You can tell them, over and over again, “you have to turn the knob a lot before you see the little Number 1,” but it’s a bit like taking somebody with no sense of scale to Coney Island, showing them the beach, and saying, “this is the Atlantic Ocean. It’s big.” They don’t really comprehend how far away Ireland really is. Not until they see a globe, sail, or fly across it. Then they start to get the idea.

Just as in the case of the ocean, not until they get their own fat little thumbs onto that dial and start turing do they, in fact, realize that there’s a looong film leader on 120/220 film. You have to turn a long way until you see that cute little number 1 staring back at you in the little circular viewer.

Sometimes, the film manufacturers, in their infinite wisdom, put markings on the paper that backs the 120/220 film. You can see the markings “go by” in the little “peephole” of your toy camera. There are all these arrows, colored markings, arrows pointing the other way, etc. on the back of the film. I wouldn’t be surprised, on day, to happen across some 120 film that read, on the back of it,

“Help! I work for Kodak. Oh and, here’s your damned number 1 leave me alone already. -> 1”

You can always spot a newbie by the way they treat the number 1. If they get to an arrow, pause, and ask, “is this it?” you can “yoda” them with my permission. (You can sit there all yoda-like, basking in the glow of “know” while repeating over and over again, “I told you that you have to turn the dial a lot before you can see the numbers. Just keep turning. The numbers will come…”)

Now, I’m certain that, someday soon, if not already, there’s going to be a conversation that starts out, “I didn’t realize Compact Flash could get logged in one’s nostril” (or something equally funny) but, even so, I wouldn’t trade in my quest for Number 1-I wouldn’t trade my deep understanding or knowledge of how far it really is from the start-for anything.

Until next time…


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