Sorting it Out

Above: The now-gone remains of the school in Mosheim, Texas

At some point in the last six months or so, I discovered a podcast called The Photowalk. It’s hosted by a British fellow by the name of Neale James, who is also the co-host of another Fujifilm-related podcast that I listen to regularly (since I’m now shooting with Fuji X-Series cameras).

I really like The Photowalk. It’s quite different in focus from any other photography podcast I’ve found… I find myself in a reflective mood while listening to it. In fact, I like it so much that I started supporting The Photowalk on Patreon, which allows me to listen to exclusive patron-only content, including episodes of an additional podcast segment, called The Extra Mile.

Last night I was listening to one of those segments and a bit of dialog caught my attention. There’s a recurring feature on the shows called the “Roll of 12″… twelve questions that the guests answer. The dialog in question is related to the ninth question on that list.

Neale James: What advice would you give the younger you picking up a camera for the first time?

Kieron Beard: I had the occasion when I was at college to go take some photos, develop my own rolls, and… I didn’t carry on with it. I’d say to my younger self “yep, sort it out.”

Neale James: I think I’d physically put a Kodak in my younger self’s hands and say “You won’t understand it now, son, but take pictures of everything. Take pictures in the… I mean, there’s parts of Hertford, which is where I grew up, that are no longer there. The lovely old arcade with Tracks Records, that was the record shop where we bought our first vinyl records…before [vinyl] became popular again…”

Looking back, I should have “carried on with it” after the photography bug bit me during my senior year of high school. I should have “sorted it out.” Now, I don’t blame myself, because film photography was (and still is) expensive, and when you’re in high school, dropping the equivalent of four or five of your McDonald’s paychecks on a Nikon body, and then spending even more on a lens or three, and then spending even more on film and processing (over and over and over again) is fairly daunting. So yeah, it’s understandable that I let it drop. But I still wish I’d carried on with it.

That water’s under the bridge, though.

And I do wish that somebody had said “take pictures of everything” to me when I was a kid when I had my Polaroid or my point-and-shoot Kodak 110 camera placed into my hands. There are all kinds of things that I wish I had taken pictures of that caught my eye as a child…

  • The old gas station at Royal on US 401 between where we lived and Louisburg, NC
  • The flickering signs in front of the laundromat on Bicket Boulevard in Louisburg
  • The old tobacco warehouse on Bickett Boulevard
  • The “new” gas station that went up at the corner of Bickett and NC 56 within walking distance of my grandparents’ house
  • Lancaster’s grocery, including the omnipresent farmers on the benches on the front porch
  • The gas station at White and Roosevelt in Wake Forest, NC
  • Youngsville (NC) Feed and Seed
  • Griffin’s Restaurant in Youngsville
  • The old railroad depot in Youngsville
  • The old elementary school in Youngsville
  • The interior of the old post office in Youngsville
  • Tractors pulling trailers full of tobacco down the roads
  • The old-school wood- and gas-fired tobacco barns

The list goes on… but I didn’t, and in some cases, I feel pretty confident that there’s no photographic record of those things, because at the time they were mundane. Uninteresting. Definitely not spectacular like a sunset or nostalgic like a little white wooden church building just around the curve on a back road that’s miles outside the city limits.

I’m trying to re-train my brain to photograph those sorts of things now… to take the pictures that I’ll wish I had taken when I’m seventy or eighty. It’s been amazingly tough. Things will catch my eye and I know that means I should stop and take a picture. But my brain says things like “oh, that’s so mundane” or “you don’t have time now… you can come back and get a photo next time you’re by here” or “who wants to see a picture of that?” or (worst of all) “people are going to think you’re crazy/stupid/weird if they see you taking a picture of that.”

But I’m bound and determined to sort it out… and to try to teach my children the same way of “seeing.” We’ll see how it works out.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top