In 1990 I took my first photography course under a die-hard disciple of the Bauhaus (not the band, but the art school in germany ;-) On the first day of class the intimidating professor glared at me through his perfectly round metal frames and informed me that he would fail me if I didn’t purchase the pre-requisite SLR camera.
Broke at the time, I held onto my tiny, used Olympus XA (now a camera that has reached cult status), and swore I would prove this guy wrong – with all due respect of course. What my photos lacked in technical achievement they gained back in capturing the rare moment and location. For the next semester, I carried this genius little device in my pocket until it was finally stolen by the Secretary of the Bishop of Rome (a long story for another time).
To ‘prove’ the sense of composition, most of the negatives were developed full frame with the tell-tale ‘burnt’ frame. Photography became not an art in and of itself, but a kind of ‘3rd eye,’ capturing the space between imagination, journalism, and allegory. 30 photos (17 of which are shown below) were packaged into a hand-made corrugated box. Considering this was an intro class and it was nearly impossible for the poor students to reach Maholy-Nagy status in 13 weeks, my little range-finder and I were bestowed an A+ due to the massive grading curve.
Now in the age of iPhone and instagram, the in-the-moment photo may have become the norm, but there’s still something inspiring about the impromptu image that may have slipped away if it wasn’t for the pocket camera. And what’s wrong with adding a little filter-fantasy to our smart phone photos – after all the dark-room was once also the place for creative experimentation…