A Gift That Keeps On Giving

Fifty-seven years ago who could ever have predicted the influence a birthday gift would have on my life. July 30, 1953, the day I turned 5, I received a present that continues to influence my life today at age 62.

At age 5 with my Kodak Baby Brownie in hand I carefully line up a picture in the viewfinder.
At the suggestion of my sister Barbara my parents gave me a camera, a Kodak Baby Brownie. I grew up in a family of snap shooters, and as a result I assumed everyone took pictures. I quickly joined the family pastime and began making images of my own.

In the fall after receiving my camera I began kindergarten at McAlister Elementary School in Lawrence, KS. Although I’m sure I made use of my new possession during the summer one of the first pictures I remember making was of my entire class lined up on the steps of the school.

Throughout grade school I continued to take pictures with my prized Brownie. My parents were both teachers, and we often took long summer vacations, camping along the sway as we drove to visit my grandparents and other relatives in Washington state. Naturally my camera went along to record visits to places like the Grad Canyon, Yosemite, the Puget Sound, Yellowstone, and the Rocky Mountains.

During those years I wouldn’t say photography was a passion, but it was a continuing interest. Although by the time I entered junior high I had begun experimenting with other cameras and had begun to learn how to use my father’s 35mm I kept the precious camera that started it all. During high school a friend and I assembled a primitive dark room in his parents basement bathroom, and together we began learning how to process film and make our own prints. My knowledge of and interest in photography continued to grow at a slow steady pace.

My First Camera And My Most Recent Camera – On the left is a Kodak Baby Browie that I received as a gift for my 5th birthday, July 30, 1953.  On the right is my most recent camera a Canon Digital Rebel that I purchased 51 years later in 2004. 

My sophomore year in college I decided to major in journalism and enrolled in a basic photojournalism course. At that point the glowing spark that had bee ignited by the gift I received as a small child took flame, and I have had a passion for photography ever since. During college I not only became the photo editor of the school paper, but also freelanced for area news papers and occasionally even got pictures on the Associated Press wire. For extra cash while attending school I took over a party photography business from graduating upper classmen, and before graduating myself began photographing weddings. I had clearly found my calling.

For the next 35 years, though I occasionally held jobs in other fields, I continued to work as a photographer either part time or full time. My first job out of school was as a writer and photographer for a daily newspaper. I later owned and operated two portrait and wedding studios. By the time I closed the last studio I had begun photographing weddings for the children of my earliest wedding clients.

Today at age 62 I am retired from the daily grind of operating a studio and now continue to enjoy making images with a camera, although now I no longer feel the need to satisfy the whims of customers and create photographic art following my own interests and desires.

My subject matter these days is much more diverse. I have moved from the simple Kodak box camera to a sophisticated Canon digital single lens reflex. I have traded the hours spent with my fingers soaking in wet chemicals for hours spent processing images with Photoshop on a computer. My images no longer always look like photographs when I complete them, and I don’t sit around in a studio waiting for people to show up. I post many images on line and swap comments and ideas with photographers and artists all over the world. I now occasionally display my work in art galleries.

Fifty-seven years later my life revolves around a simple gift I received the day I turned 5. I think that clearly qualifies as a gift that has given and kept giving.

Thanks Mom and Dad and Barbara Jean.

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Click here to see more of my images on Flickr.

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Your feedback is appreciated.  Click here to leave a comment.

Text and image copyright 2010 Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

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5 Responses to “A Gift That Keeps On Giving”

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