bad w/ a camera

it’s refreshing to practice something you are not only not good at, but bad at. it’s refreshing, and it’s freeing, and it’s fun. i am not good at many fun things that i deeply love doing, including sometimes, the act of having fun. including also, instant photography.

I bought myself this camera before visiting my friend and her family in Australia in 2018. I wanted physical memories.

what happens is an item, person, or scene of interest makes itself known - then I take out the camera, a point and click instant camera with rectangular slats of film. the body of the camera is held awkwardly, in matte white. the aperture is slight and dim.

I try, cranking the dial knob to the recommended setting for the light, careful to avoid the mysterious HI-KEY setting. i adjust by some inches, press the button and the picture reveals itself, a frame slowly rising from beneath the black hedge.

I give it five minutes to develop. I give it five more minutes in the event it takes ten minutes to be at all impressive.

uniform flower

it’s inevitably the same as all the other photos: color sapped from the overpowering flash, details in the back or foreground hazy in an uninteresting way. viewed all together, the photos harmonize into a bland catalog of indistinguishable point and shoot photos.

I have since lost all of the photos from Australia, but I will describe some here: sunlight hitting a bright red chair in a half-abandoned office building, deities carved in white stone, flies aggressively lobbying for our toast, the graveyard by the sea, my friend’s son - sleepy with his ring of yellow hair, a multi-colored sculpture designed to catch wind off the south coast.

the other photos i hold again and again. i visit them, in their pleasant stack in my memory box. I rearrange them, tacked up at my office. particular photos of loved ones, i stash in places only i will think to look. in locale specific to me. it’s sentimental.

(perhaps my photos from Australia are in a stash so secret that not even I am allowed to know. I think they must be all the more enjoyable for their utlrasecret status.)

i hold the photos and some detail of the process swims up. the nudge of joy as I remember the annoyance of the condition they were taken in: of a spitty rain ruining the lens. or the sun overpowering my line of vision, as the camera strap tightens haphazardly around my wrist as I struggle simultaneously with my water bottle and backpack - impatient as ever, shunning any attempt at one-thing-at-a-time. a punishing wind knocking strands of loose hair into my face and eyes.

all this for bland and greyed out ocean, faded beach blankets set back from the shoreline. a single crack of sun shot over a rock, the blank pink of a late flowering bush, the recognizable curve of a stranger’s elbow.

the reward in a harmlessly greedy stash of what, in its mediocrity, could only be mine.


Caroline O'Connor Thomas