Kodachrome. My dad was an intrepid photographer. He got started early with photography. By the late 1920s he was a staff photographer for the Miami Herald, then one of the largest newspapers in the world. The largest by one measure. Working for the Herald and later raising kids formed his photographic aesthetic: photos were documentation, not art. He always took plenty of photos on family outings, but when we moved to Kenya he hit his stride. Wait'll the folks back home see this. He took tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of photos in Kenya during the seven years he lived there. He shot Kodachrome for color slides, not Kodacolor for prints. He left me a footlocker trunk full of yellow bottomed boxes of Kodachrome slides. If only they were as colorful as Paul would have us believe.
Bit by the bug. My dad put on slide shows through the early years of retirement at Riverhaven: at home, in his church, and in local nursing homes, schools and libraries. Anywhere anyone wanted a slideshow of East Africa. As age and whatever it was that became dementia slowly faded his interests he passed the torch to me by giving me his camera, a Canon F-1 he paid the import premium price for in Kenya once he realized his viewfinder camera wasn't cutting it anymore. I had already borrowed it a few times, entranced by the very idea of focusing and composing through the lens itself, the actual Zeiss lens.
I got into photography in a big way while I was living in Tallahassee in the 1970s. That started while I was living in the lake house and visiting the old folks at home way down upon the Suwannee River twice a month. Every other weekend. I was mostly interested in informal portrait work, catching my family and friends candidly if possible. I got good at it. I can't back that statement up. I got rid all my photos from back then long ago. I sometimes wish I'd kept the best of them, but wishing is mental. There's no value in it. Leela knows better. She helped me get rid of all that, and she helped me leave photography behind when that time came. Thank heavens. Taking pictures is a sad excuse for being there and an effective barrier to being here. To make progress with love I have to take one step toward god. That one step is doing everything humanly possible to be present, attentive and quiet inside. If I take that one step Leela does the rest, 99% of the work. Photography does not fit in that picture, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.
Darkroom. A guy I worked with in Tallahassee had a darkroom in his home, and he invited me to come make prints and learn the craft. Unlike my dad, I favored prints. Over the course of about a year he taught me the basics of the black and white darkroom. He was a great mentor, very generous with his time. I bought the materials and he took me through the steps of developing and printing. I made stacks of prints and dreamed of setting up my own darkroom, and expanding to color. I was stymied because there was no good room to convert at the lake house. The ramshackle shed I thought might work had a dirt floor. It was nowhere near lightproof or clean enough. After that year my interest faded. I put a few of my prints in albums, along with some of my best color photos from before. The rest went back into the empty photographic paper boxes. Later on, in Boulder, I discovered I hadn't been meticulous enough to do decent darkroom work. My careless goofs took several years to appear in my prints. It was a good lesson.
Book arts. I developed a crush on book arts at Naropa. That's a common side effect of getting bitten by the calligraphy bug. I wanted to make calligraphic tchotchkes: things that weren't just pretty pictures on the wall or Christmas cards. You read that right. I sent out Christmas cards through several holiday seasons in the 1980s. I tried to justify this lapse of good taste by calling them solstice cards but no one was fooled. All I can say in my defense is I got over it. My calligraphy teacher got me started with book arts and introduced me to other book artists in Boulder. Of course Boulder was acrawl with them. I made handmade paper, sewed up signatures, marbled end papers and made a few one off calligraphic books. All of which I dragged around until Crown Hill. There I finally got rid of all the remaining book art and calligraphy crap, right into mixed recycling. The recycling bin also received a leather bound album I had created. That chestnut deserves its own paragraph.