Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Love with the Lens

By Lisabet Sarai

My first lover P. was a photographer. He carried his camera everywhere and took pictures of pretty much everything, though he was particularly talented when it came to portraits. He took some of the best photos of me that anyone ever has - normally I'm the least photogenic person in the universe! But I can't post them here, because someone from my distant past might recognize me.

Our relationship inspired me to get involved with photography. I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I bought a used Kodak Signet 35 camera, something of a collector's item even back then. It offered completely manual settings for film speed, aperture and shutter speed - requiring a bit of work but on the other hand, providing total control. I also bought a light meter. (Remember those? Many of you probably don't!)

Under P.'s tutelage - well, actually, I learned most of the basics on my own - I started capturing the world around me. I even taught myself how to develop black and white film, although I have to admit that I only did so once or twice. (It was the same when I got my first car, about a decade later. I insisted on knowing how to change the oil myself, even though most of the time I didn't.)

Unlike P., I seemed to gravitate to images that didn't necessarily contain humans. The photo above was one of my early efforts. It's a photo of my younger brother's bedroom during exam period. He must have been a freshman in high school; I was a junior. The picture captures a sense of chaos and yet at the same time, it's a still life. The frenzied studying is over, or at least has been interrupted. Without checking, one suspects that the box of pretzels is empty. A shaft of sun illuminates the tousled bed clothes, gilding the abandoned books and notes.

It's in some ways typical of the photos I took. I liked patterns, tricks of the light, reflections, details that spoke volumes. When I was reviewing pictures for this blog, I found a couple of others from the same period, which illustrate my tastes.

The interesting thing is that I'm still drawn to the same sorts of images in the photos I take now. Here's a photo (not black and white) I took while I was in Japan last November.

I don't really consider myself a photographer. A true photo-phile never goes anywhere without a camera (and yes, my cell phone has one, but it's so pathetic it's not worth mentioning). But when I fell in love with P., it seems that I fell in love with the lens, too.


  1. Hi Lisabet!

    What a wonderful start to this subject.

    Actually I think what makes the picture is the box of "Mister Salty" pretzels. I don;t know if they even make those anymore, but it adds a certain footprint of personality. When I first saw the image I thought it was a souvenir photo of the lover's bed of you and P. I imagined you as a young woman and P with you writhing in pleasure on the bed, throwing your limbs around and making nloise with the covers kicked aside and then scarfing down Mister Salty pretzels while you took turns washing up in the other room. You shouldn;t have told us this was your little brothers bed and not your lover's bed. We wouldn;t have known.

    Someone once described Keith Richards as looking "like an unmade bed", a simile I've always been on the watch for a chance to steal.


  2. Hello, Garce,

    You have a dirty mind!



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