As with everything, the things we see and hear about when we are children, often affects us very deeply, whether it’s good or bad experiences.
Fortunately, I believe that we humans are in general born with an inate goodness within us all. So the majority of us grow up seeing goodness from day one.
So it was with my family. I can still remember some of the things I did when I was no more than 3 or 4 years old, which for me, is absolute magic, as I am well into middle age now. We used to live on the coast, and I well recall being taken to the beaches by my parents and seeing fishermen tending their nets and boats or selling freshly caught fish. In particular, I still remember big square tins standing on the beach, full of huge, crawling lobsters. Also seeing little creepy crawlies popping up through the sand but disappearing just as quickly whenever I went running after them. For some reason, those thoughts have remained stored in mind for all these years.
It was around about that time I first noticed my father asking my mother and I to stand together in our front garden whilst he was busy looking into some kind of a square brown box. I used to like just looking at this strange box whenever I got the chance; admiring all the shiny metal bits and the funny blue glass eyeballs on the front.
And whenever I tried to hold the thing, I was told it was not for babies; maybe when I grew up I could use it!
That is how I developed a secret penchant and longing to find out more about that magical box, and that is how it remained for another 5 to 8 years, until I was around 10 years old.
That is when my father somehow decided that I was of the age where I could be trusted to handle that magical metal box, which turned out to be a Yashica Mat camera.
I was soon using the camera regularly, taking pot shots of our garden, the little family budgerigar, my siblings etc. And it was such a foolproof camera, that virtually all my shots came out quite well, and this is before I even knew anything about f-stops or shutter speeds — all I remember doing is setting the aperture to f8 and the shutter to 1/100s, as advised by my dad!
However, I didn’t stop there; I started experimenting with close-ups using my hand-held magnifying glass or taping a round piece of the yellow wrapper that used to cover the old Lucozade bottles or a green sweet wrapper, which gave really great but weird results with black and white film.
The one most important act in my early life was when my primary school arranged a visit to Windsor Castle and I was allowed to bring along my father’s Yashica Mat. I just happened to be the only kid in the whole class with a camera and who knew how to use it; even the teacher asked me to take some shots of him with the rest of the class.
This last task was fundamental in cementing my perceived expertise with cameras into my mind, as from that day onwards, I was forever being asked by friends and teachers about how to use their cameras, what settings and films to use, so much so that I was asked by my class teacher to help set up a school photography club, with myself being in charge. What a morale booster!
I must admit I was lucky to have parents who were supportive at that crucial time in my life, as if they hadn’t allowed me to use the camera, everything I am doing now would most probably never have taken place. This is why I in turn have never once derided or prevented my children from trying their hands at anything they are interested in, and that in part is most likely why they have all grown into very well educated and balanced adults, all of them graduates in various disciplines.
That is why, even to this day, whenever I try a new camera or a new way of processing my films, I relish that same feeling when I first got to hold the family Yashica Mat; at times like that, I feel I am in heaven on earth.