The Story in a Box

January 23, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

A little, yellow-orange, Kodak box has followed me around for more than fifty years. I remember when I bought it; not the date and time but most things.

_B4A5635Velox Paper

I was somewhere south of 15 years old and had ridden my bicycle down to the camera store on Colorado Blvd.  It was about an hour’s ride there and another back but I really liked riding my bike… almost as much as whatever adventure I was heading toward.  My brother had just found an old bellows style camera in the trash cans along our back alley and I was riding down to the store to buy some 620 film for the new old camera. I don’t remember the make or model of the camera but I know it had a Carl Zeiss lens and that was good.  It also had a light leak in the bellows, but it was easily fixed with electrical tape.  

 

The problem was, I didn’t have an enlarger in my make-shift closet darkroom.  So, when I spied the box of paper on the shelf, I thought it would be the perfect size for making contact prints.  So that’s what I did.  I took pictures of people, flowers, trees, my brother and even pictures of pictures.  My parents had a Polaroid and I set about taking pictures of the Polaroid prints so I’d have a negative to work with.

 

You can surmise that I was pretty much a geek, at least since puberty.  I liked to build things and trips to the hardware store, army surplus and camera store were the starting points for many, what seemed at the time, great ideas.  I built crystal radios, solar-powered transistor radios, electric motors, generators, and even a focused light beam transmitter/receiver for a radio.  If I could have just laid my hands on a laser…

 

But I digress. My point was that I ran out of film before I ran out of paper and came up with an idea.  Having worked with 4x5 film cartridges in Printing class, I realized that the paper might fit directly in the film guides of the camera and replace the film.  I tried and it did so I started to experiment with exposures to see if I could properly expose the paper to obtain a negative paper image.  Once that was sorted, I just developed it like a print and then put the dried paper negative together with a new sheet of paper and made a contact print, as usual.  The apertures needed to be smaller, for sharpness, and the exposures longer than film but the results were passable.  Not much later, I bought a diffusion enlarger for my darkroom/closet and never looked back.  

 

Today, that box holds some curling old paper prints, a few flat 620 negatives and a half dozen 35mm negatives.  All from around that time.  They’re nothing to look at really but, in that box, they mark a turning point in my life where I started to see photography as a creative medium; something I could build with.

 


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