I saw a picture online today that looked strangely similar to pictures I remember taking when I was maybe 12 years old with my mom’s Instamatic X-15. Yeah, that’s right. The old Instamatic X-15.
Oh, I’m sorry. You say the name “Instamatic” doesn’t ring a bell? (Ahem. How could it NOT??)
OK, how about this?
Yes, that’s a 4-sided flashbulb. You only get 4 tries and then it’s off to the store for another one. Good luck and thanks for playing!
And, just so there are no mistakes, Kodak made sure to clearly label it a “camera”. We wouldn’t want little Cindy to do something cute and have Mrs. Brady try to capture the moment using the Easy Bake Oven by accident, would we? (A device which also happens to be clearly labeled, I must mention.)
Those darn electronic thingamajiggers can get so confusing. Proper labeling is the only path to the future.
Back to my point. When using the flash, that Instamatic X-15 took images that could best be described as ghost-like, especially if the subject was wearing white. Every surface on which the light landed turned almost completely white with zero detail and everything else turned black. Again, no detail.
It was sufficient for the time and I’m pretty sure my mom was tickled pink to own this cool gadget, especially that year I got my new glasses.
The image I found online today was much like I described – whites completely flat and blown out, with a dropped-off black background. Had it been mine I would have judged it rather harshly on its poor composure, poor lighting and poor everything. If it had been mine, I certainly wouldn’t have posted it online. It never would have seen the light of day. I would have shaken my head at my stupidity and considered telling my 12-year-old self to give it up.
Then, I would have opened another can of Tab and sent the Slinky down the stairs one more time.
But, the picture I’m talking about was taken just a couple years ago by a professional in her 20s with one of the most advanced cameras money can buy. And, much to my surprise, under this picture was line after line of comments from complete strangers saying it was a “fantastic catch” and “so vintage” and “my favorite!”
I skimmed through more of her shots and became completely enthralled. She’s creative, not afraid of breaking the rules and clearly not caught up copying what everyone else is doing. She knows who she is.
She also happens to be busy traveling the world shooting a new advertising campaign for Billabong, the hip and cool clothing line for all those hip and cool kids out there. She’s making a living being herself. How lucky!
It made me happy for her, but a little sad for me. I was kind of hard on my 12-year-old self.
And so, my observation is this: While you fight against everything you are, trying to make your work conform to whatever is popular or whatever rules you think apply to creativity, it couldn’t hurt to go back and appreciate what was done in the past. What YOU did in the past. Even the stuff you thought was no good. If you have the talent now, you probably had it then, and who knows, you may be able to learn from your 12-year-old self.
After all, you’ve got to give her credit for surviving purple polyester bell-bottoms.
Men’s best successes come after their disappointments.
Henry Ward Beecher
Images in this post are not my own.
This post is linked up to Clickitupanotch – for What I Learned 8-18-11