After all these years of struggle with photography I’m still undeveloped. I started when I was 8 years old with a Kodak Baby Brownie camera I’d won in a soapbox derby. My father said he’d pay for the first roll of film and developing, but after that I should be earning enough with the camera to cover expenses. I don’t blame Dad for that little fib. It was during the Great Depression and 50 cents was a significant amount of money. It would buy a gallon of milk, five gallons of gas or five loaves of Wonder Bread.
I thought if anything exciting took place in my neighborhood I’d take a few shots to sell to a newspaper and maybe become famous. The closest thing to an exciting event was when old Mrs. Bockman, a rather stout lady, got wedged in her chicken coop doorway one morning when she went out to gather eggs. She raised a howl and the chickens went berserk.
When I arrived with my Brownie Mrs. Bockman’s frantic struggle had left her house dress a bit askew and she begged me not to take her picture, so I didn’t. I realized then I’d never make it as a paparazzo, but I’ll bet she would have paid me a whole dollar for the film or the picture would have made the front page with the caption: “Trapped housewife threatened by crazed roosters rescued by a young photog.”
Years later I became a freelance reporter and editors soon learned to limit me to reporting and send pros to shoot pictures. Now and then, however, I was handed a reflex camera, given confusing f-stop and shutter speed instructions and told to do my best. My best wasn’t always up to par.
“Explain this picture!” my editor growled after examining one of my shots.
“It’s plain enough, isn’t it chief? That’s fire fighters climbing a ladder at the warehouse fire you sent me to.”
“They look like they’re climbing over each other’s backs and the highest man seems to have two heads while the lowest has four legs. I think I’m looking at a double exposure here.”
“That’s okay, Chief. I’ll only charge you for a single.”