I imagine this will be a long story – I’m 68 just now and I’ve been involved with film and cameras for as long as I can remember. Not as a “real photographer” mind you – that’s been off-and-on, but one way or another. I’m not going to try to tell the whole story, certainly not in one post. I seem to be a story teller, so I guess it’ll be best to just start at the beginning and see where it goes. This isn’t intended to be a general autobiography, but there’s going to be some of that to put things into context – this isn’t about People in General Learn Photography, it’s this one particular guy’s story.
The story actually begins well over 68 years ago, whenever it was that my Dad, the late Homer B. Smith, got his first camera. I don’t know when that was – I know that we’ve found some 35mm negatives from his courtship with my Mom, the late Mildred Smith, nee Hollett, in 1937 or so. In fact, I don’t know many details other than that my Dad was of an artistic bent, he’d trained at Chicago’s Art Institute, and when the end of WWII found the family (Dad and Mom, and my sister Barbara) in Long Beach, California, he belonged to a Camera Club. The basement rec-room in the first house that I remember was decorated with matted 8 x 10 prints of Mount Wilson Observatory, skiers, and still-lifes that he’d taken with his 4 x 5 Speed Graphic and printed.
Now that we’ve fast-forwarded to 1951 or so, I can begin to speak from my own memories, spotty as they are at first. I’m not sure at what age I was first allowed to be with Dad in his darkroom – but I do remember how he would make it very clear that I was not to touch anything, then get everything arranged, turn-on the safe light, and bathed in red, I’d watch him develop the big Speed Graphic negatives, then a few days later make contact prints. Later on, when the usual camera was a “2 1/4 Square” twin lens reflex (I can’t recall the make), out would come the enlarger, and the magic of zooming in and out, focusing, then exposing and processing the sheet paper, washing it thoroughly, and finally rolling it face down on sheets of stainless steel. The next day we’d come back to find that the dried prints had curled just a bit and sat on the stainless sheets as if they were doing push-ups.
And that’s how I got started – watching Dad and assuming that I’d someday do the same, ’cause that’s what grown-ups did.