Trigger warning: Violence, domestic abuse
Nineteen Eighty-Three. That is probably the first time I picked up a camera. I say ‘probably’ because I was born not long before that, and I can only assume that it took me a couple of years before I was able to crawl into my father’s brown and tan camera bag to explore the Canon A1 he purchased the week before I was born. He bought the camera to take photos of me, his first child. For someone who neither makes a living as a photographer nor takes all that many photos these days, I sure did write a lot of books about photography.
A technologist at heart, I was an early adopter of mobile phones. In the summer of 1997, I had an Ericsson GH 388 that I had bought second-hand off a colleague who was a recently recovered drug user, so he could buy heroin with the money I had earned at my very first summer job. Yes, the same job where I met him: at the Salvation Army. He showed me the cotton ball with blood on it from where he had shot up, and I never quite figured out why that seemed like a good idea to him.
As a hormone-ravaged teenager with a particular love of the nude female form, I loved the smell of the boarding school’s darkroom chemicals as much as I hated the sting of its cost on my wallet, so when photography became digital, I was hooked. Finally — photography could move from carefully constructed experiments that took weeks, to instant feedback loops and being able to assess lighting, apertures, and the model’s expression. It’s hard to fathom today, but digital, per se, changed everything about learning how to take photographs.
In the first week of my journalism degree, I discovered that Ericsson had done something wild; they had created a phone that didn’t just have a color screen; it also had an attachable camera. The whole contraption was the size of a lime and could store a grand total of fourteen photos in laughable resolution and abysmal quality. But bought one, I did. The technologist in me was doing cartwheels, and the photographer in me was experiencing Nietsche-levels of the abyss.