I think I always wanted to do what I started only in my 40s: wander around with a camera and photograph whatever interests me.
It was 1985 and I was about to graduate high school. My life had been about strict routines, and I was excited that they would soon end and my life would be much more mine to create. I felt a desire to document the waning days of my soon-ending life, so I dug out a camera and loaded it with film.
I’ll bet I owned more than 100 cameras then. I’d already been collecting for upwards of ten years. But which camera I chose for this roll is lost in the mists of my memory. The negatives attest that it was a 35mm camera. I’m trying to remember what decent 35mm cameras I owned then. The only one I remember is my Argus A-Four.
I wanted very much to photograph the downtown of my hometown, South Bend. I rode the city bus downtown, just me and my camera. I made just one photograph, this one — and my self-consciousness overcame me and I got right back on the bus and went home. I feel compassion for my then-self now. I wish I could step back and give that fellow a shot of confidence that the things that interested him were perfectly okay, and to hell with what anybody else might think about it. And then I would have told him to keep shooting that day, as downtown South Bend would change dramatically over the next 30-plus years and it would be great to have a record of how it was. The pictured WSBT building is a great example. WSBT moved out some years ago and the building has been so extensively remodeled it’s hard to recognize it.
Most of the rest of this roll is of mundane subjects and a few photographs of my classmates at the Senior Picnic. But I did make a few more photographs that showed the world I lived in, and I treasure them. This is the high school I went to.
The building is no more, demolished after some years of neglect, replaced by a gleaming modern school a block away. I got to tour the building just before it was torn down and it had fallen into sorry, sad condition. I felt bad for the students who had to use it.
I climbed the oak tree in our back yard to make this photograph. We lived on a corner; this is the side street. That’s Dad’s work van, which we affectionately called The Iron Maiden. Read its story here.
My subject was this fire hydrant in our yard. It had recently replaced one that had been painted to look like a Minuteman. Most fire hydrants around the city had been so painted in 1975-76 in honor of the Bicentennial. Fortunately, I did not know yet to fill the frame with my subject, and so I got a pretty good photo looking down the street I grew up on. It was a good place to grow up. Have a look at some more recent photos from this street here.
I scanned these negatives a few years ago with my Wolverine Super F2D scanner (review here). The flatbed I own now would do a much better job, but these are good enough.
Last updated on 19 March 2020 by Jim Grey