I grew up in the sixties and seventies in Southern California and my father, an avid photographer used to take me to many camera stores. He bought me my first Kodak Instamatic when I was nine, and though it is long gone, it has been replaced by an exact replica, as I now collect cameras. These old camera stores were cool with all the iconography and signage of the era, the Kodak displays, and the faint smell of stop bath from the back room. My dad could spend an hour chatting f-stops and fixer dilution with the guy behind the counter. Maybe he’d pickup a new wide angle lens, or a yellow filter, or maybe just some lens cleaning tissue. There are few such places left, but most have gone from darkrooms to self serve kiosks, and from negatives to pixels. The only cameras marketed to kids today are based on lame cartoon characters, though back in the day there were of plenty Barbie cameras too. ( we can argue Barbie v Dora The Explorer later)
Along with the recent resurgence of film has come a new generation of analog camera lovers. When you combine that with return of “Polaroid” style instant films and Polaroid camera users you get kind of a Father and Son meeting all over again. At Photoworks, I thought it would be fun to sell a few used cameras. I started out with some Polaroids, and now have all sorts of used film cameras. I can’t keep the stuff on the shelves, and the whole vibe of the shop has picked up with the new camera offerings.
Now I’m searching eBay for SX-70 cameras, and old signs to decorate the shop. Everyday some new camera comes in the mail. I clean them up, put them on display, and then they are gone. For the first time in 23 years, I have people asking me for a ” 28mm nikkor” as if I’m an actual camera store. I say, “let me check in the back for you,” even though there is no “back.” So, I am clearly enjoying all of this camera business, and something about it has rekindled some nostalgia in me. Maybe we’ll have to bring back the old darkroom, now that would make my Dad proud.