The End of the Age of Photography (Pt. III)
The Girl with the Rolleiflex meets the Homeless Man.
A young woman was walking down a wide Chicago street looking for something to photograph, hanging at her side, held in her fist, was a Rolleiflex with a 2.8, 80mm lens. She held it this way, partly to hide it and partly to have it ready to use. Towards the middle of the street she came to an alley way, and peeking inside she saw a homeless person, seemingly asleep on some sheets of card board.
Stepping into the alley she approached the old and disheveled man.
“May I make your picture?” she asked, revealing her Rollei.
“With that thing?”
“Yes. I have black and white film inside it,” said the girl with a certain amount of pride.
“I would prefer that my picture were made in color.”
“Most great photographs were done in black and white.”
“How much is that camera worth?” said the homeless man, eyeing the camera.
“Looks expensive to me.”
Questions like these made the young woman uneasy so she was careful to answer,
“It’s used. It was a gift from my father.”
“Yeah. Right. He gave it to you instead of taking it to the dump.”
Then the homeless man added, “I have a camera too,”
and reaching into the pile of blankets he had on top of his card board sheeting,
he pulled out a Cannon G11 digital camera.
“That looks expensive,” said the girl, surprised to see a homeless person with a camera.
“I didn’t steal it,” said the man, “it was bequeathed to me by a friend.”
“Your friend died?” said the girl.
“Froze to death.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said the girl thinking she should have brought a tape recorder.
“This camera is lighting fast,” said the old man, “and I don’t need processing. I don’t need anything. I am free.”
“Perhaps,” said the girl, “but I will have a negative, and make prints, and maybe one day have my prints preserved in a museum.”
“What for? The museums will be under water,” said the old man. “Want to know what the best thing about this digi gadget is? The cat’s meow. You know what that means don’t you? The cat’s meow of digi is you can erase the pictures! I love to erase the pictures. If more people erased more pictures we won’t be bombarded with all this visual shit”
“I suppose there is some truth in that, but my camera has depth of field.”
“Your camera has what? You say yours has depth of field?
“My pictures have a foreground, a background and a sense of space.”
“Boring, boring, now I’m snoring,” said the old man, and threw in a snore to boot. “I could have made your picture three times and erased two of them in the time you took to say that, and I could have shown you the results and have gone on to my next exciting project. That’s what I call lighting speed. And I don’t focus. By the way, where is your light meter?”
“I do it in my head.”
“Ha! I don’t do anything in my head. I just look at the world and when I’m ready this little lightning fast sucker does it all. It could do color in a coal mine! You’ve probably never even been in a coal mine,” said the old man.
“Mine is a classic,” said the girl, “but I do have trouble focusing sometimes. It’s pretty slow with a Rollei.”
“Rollies are good for pictures of fruit! That’s what I say. That is if the apples don’t roll around too much.”
“Well what about the Digi camera as the End of Civilization?” asked the girl. “That’s what everyone is saying. No film, no prints, no books, no life as we know it.”
“Well, speaking as a homeless person who sleeps on cardboard, a person that is off the radar, has no medical coverage, no retirement, no property, nor a family to care for me, I would say that civilization as we know it ended a long time ago in America, so I doubt what happens in photography would affect that much one way or the other.”
“I would still like to make your picture,” said the girl.
“Sure. Want me to stand against the dark brick wall in this bright over cast light, or would you prefer a shot of me relaxing on my cardboard?”