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Shared with us from, John Robinson

I have many fond memories from my beginnings in photography.
Perhaps it was my father and his Argus twin lens reflex camera which fascinated me at first. The strange shape, the 2 lenses, the size and weight of the magic box which was so fun to look down into. Resting it in my small lap, I could see the world in color on the small dim screen. Even our TV wasn't in color, but why did everything look backwards. It would be a long time until I would have the camera to myself, to dissect, to learn the knobs, the dials, the many strange numbers and marks. I was given it after he died. This camera with my dad was a memory. Receiving it for my own was a profound photographic moment. Reflecting back on some of the other memories related to the pursuit of capturing moments of time into a small hand held box, I remember; the first roll of film slowly and ever so carefully "walked" into the Ansco developing tank. In one hand a Kodak D76 developing chart studied carefully for any extra wisdom I may have missed, in the other hand the extremely clever combination thermometer/agitation stick. How fast do I pour in the liquid? How much? Is it the right temperature? Will mom ever stop asking me to turn off the running water? In with the strong-smelling liquid, shake, stir, pour, measure, wait wait wait. Pour out developer, pour in water, out with water, in with a different liquid, watch the clock, check and recheck the instructions, did I miss anything. Oh, so few minutes to do so much. With all of the steps done so many times in my mind and now all of the steps done for real. Time to open the tank, or should I wait? Is it safe? The magic Kodak paper somewhere on the bathroom floor said it was. Opening the lid and oh so slowly pulling off 1 then 2 then 3 inches of wet slippery tri X film, hope upon hope, there was a different image every 2 inches. Images I had taken with my dad's camera. I had done it here so late at night with no one to call so I just sat there thinking how big of a step I had just made. I was 15 and it was A Profound Photographic Moment. There would be more memories. This was one of the best. WOW!

I thought I had gotten used to the WOW factor when not so long before I had taught myself to print the small black and white contact prints from the same camera. The film processing had been done by Kodak by way of the local Gem Supply Store. I never did know what the name meant but I did know that they were the only store in Danville that sold anything in those bright yellow boxes. They also sold Lionel trains but that is a whole other story.  I had learned how tedious it was to mix the white powders with the warm water in the correct proportions when I had taught myself the fine are of print making at the young age of 14. Although the tiny little 2 x 2 inch black and white images impressed mostly myself and some very very close relatives. I remember the small white bulb and the click on off switch on the side of the gray metal box. The glass window on the top and a nifty little door to close after making the paper and film sandwich. 1. Wait for night time. 2. Close bathroom door. 3. Stuff towels under bottom of door to block light. 4. Line up liquids and trays. 5. Turn on 15-watt red light. 6. Turn off bathroom light. (I would later learn the hard way that the next step should be to lock the bathroom door). 7. Remove photo paper from box. 7. Cut it into half and half again. Sure could use a paper cutter or at least better scissors. 8. Make negative/paper sandwich. 9. close small door and watch the alarm clock on the floor and count a few seconds while I illuminate the 15-watt white bulb inside. 10. Dip the hard to hold white square into the 4 x 5-inch black tray of warm Dektol. Keep it moving I was told. WOW! just like when we turn on our old black and white TV and the picture comes on slowly, first dim then more of a white light, then an image I can make out and recognize. I did it myself. WOW! I am a photo lab! A profound photographic moment.

I remember saving up and ordering my first SLR. A Pentax H3. Wow! I would be able to change lenses. I could only afford the camera and the 55mm 2.8 Takumar but someday with more Christmas money and more lawn mowing money I could get the 135mm or even a 35mm wide angle so I would not back so often into the walls with my head when I wanted more and more and more in the whole picture at one time. Wonderful memories of opening the Honeywell Pentax box and lifting out the camera as if it were a valuable Tiffany Egg. I played with it a long time that day before I ever dared to put film into it. You see, with film in it I couldn't open it up to watch the delicate black curtain click and flash the spot of light from the lamp across my room. Fast clicks and slow clicks. Even "bulb" clicks where I could almost see the elusive image of the bare light bulb across the room. My very own professional camera. A profound photographic moment.
There would be many more moments. Wow I am shooting pictures for the high school newspaper. There is the first issue with one of my pictures of the football game with my name under it. A profound photographic moment.
Wow! I am hired to be a professional photographer at WLEX-TV. A profound photographic moment.
I remember working the Kentucky Derby, sitting on the ground with my hands in a film changing bag and Mike Wallace says hello to me. A profound photographic moment.
Wow! I have quit WLEX to be a photographer on my own. A profound photographic moment.
Wow! I am flying over Istanbul in a Turkey army helicopter taking pictures on assignment. A profound photographic moment
I remember the many photographic assignments where it was just me a camera and an idea.
I remember all of the people I met and the long discussions over the job, the talent, the location, the client.

I remember the photographic mentoring sessions with John Harvey at WLEX-TV.
I learned more from him than anyone about how to get what the customer wants and do it on time. Wonderful moments.
I remember the pictures of others that have both inspired me and discouraged me. What would it take to be as good as them?
I remembered all of this while driving back all-night Sunday night from Atlanta after spending 3 hours with 350 of Elton Johns' wonderfully inspiring and humbling collection of photographs. A profound photographic experience. I was not organized enough to get a group together so I just went Saturday night. I drove all night, got to the museum when it opened, stayed until it closed and drove straight back. I will forever be grateful to Sir Elton John for not only collecting his 2500 photos but for letting us see 350 of his favorites. Walking through room after room of photos by Penn, Avedon, Man Ray, Bourke-White, Cartier-Bresson, Cunningham, Horst, Kertesz, Klein, Mann, Maplethorp, Newman, Steichen, Stieglitz, Weegee, Weston and others, I was in awe. So many original prints. Color, monochrome, small, large. Names I had admired only in books and others I was just discovering. I imagine this is like an aspiring painter discovering the Louvre, or an author discovering the library of Congress, or a brick layer discovering the Great Wall of China. This was the greatest collection of original prints I may ever see. WOW! I am so glad I went. I was worn out. Walking and stopping to study each print up close. Some were from 1911 and some only and inch square. Others 4 x 6 feet. I even got to see the elusive 2 ft by 2 ft instant Polaroid prints (Polaroid Polacolor P-6 dye defusion print for those of you keeping score). Cibachrome, silver gelatin, dye transfer, chromegenic dye coupler, platinum palladium, cyanotype, digital ink jet, carbon print, and photo canvases. So so many. I was so tired after 2 hours and wanted them to end but I was always grateful when I discovered another room full. 20 or 30 museum rooms. I am studying the 5-pound 200-page print show catalog I brought back. Most of the pictures I saw with information on Elton's philosophy of collecting and photos of the 18,000 sq. ft apartment he has in Atlanta just down the street from the High Museum of Art.
This is all I can tell you about if for now. I am worn out.
John Robinson


Links, Tips, Techniques and Photo Spots
Covered Bridges, Round Barns and Other Interesting Photo Spots - Dale Travis

Covered Bridge POI - TomTom

Covered Bridge POI - Garmin

Metal Prints - LOCAL

Framing & Mounting Supplies

Paper, Ink, Gloves & Miscellaneous Supplies

Albums & Packaging  

Coatings, Paper & Rigid Substrates

Bamboo & Birch Mounts

Mountboards & Laminator Supplies

2018 Slideshow Download

2019 Slideshow Download

2023 Slideshow Download


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