Ten years ago, give or take a few weeks, I bought – with great excitement and not a little expense – my first digital SLR camera.
A Canon Rebel XT with the kit lens, a distinctly underwhelming 18-55mm slow zoom.
Not that I was really aware of that at the time. I was king of the photography world. Having spent a bit more than $1000 on the camera, I felt like I possessed the supreme instrument of photographic excellence. Certainly, the reviews and ads I had perused before making the purchase led me to believe something along those lines.
I had pretty much fallen for the positive press surrounding this camera. It was one of the earliest affordable (as in not costing many thousands of dollars) ‘serious’ cameras. One that was supposed to take your photography, especially if you were coming from a point and shoot camera, either film or digital, to the next level.
It didn’t. In truth my first year’s output from this Rebel XT was frequently inferior to the results I had been getting beforehand with my older Canon G2 Powershot. Not least because I didn’t really know what I was doing. The photograph above of my back garden, for example, was shot at an unfortunately slow 1/20 sec and shows signs of camera shake. The depth of field was too shallow, the ISO too conservative. Considerations that are second nature to me these days but simply did not enter my consciousness as I played with my new and wonderful camera.
On the other hand it’s a picture that’s not too terrible. It shows the scene as it was. A rather uninteresting scene, to be sure, and not one that would win any awards for composition, but as record of time and place it serves perfectly adequately. Looking out at the same scene today reveals a largely similar view, a pointer to the slowness of time as much as anything else. Even that garden chair is still there, a rather unexpected measure of the durability of industrial plastic.
The rather sweet irony of this particular photograph, blankly undemonstrative in its ordinariness, is that it reveals a genuineness that is, to my eyes, wholly absent from the massaged mass-production that dominates digital photography, at least popular digital photography, today.
Of course, there was and is a whole artistic aesthetic that embraces images such as these, if not exactly this image. This one wouldn’t be embraced by anyone except me I suspect. And even I don’t really embrace it. It’s much more of a point of history than anything else.
That enough though.