Sorting through old negatives last year I was excited and thrilled to find the FIRST roll of film that I had ever exposed! Frame four of an eight exposure roll. Look at the deep brooding malevolent shadow in the foreground (lemon squeezer Scout hat and all), the apprehensive figure tentatively crouched at the tent, the leaning landscape seeking to overgrow the small campsite – what a mature capture for one so young!! I will not deny that there is a little 21st century post production via NIK software – but the original capture is there for all to see.
With some trepidation I looked through this chemist shop processed roll of 620 black and white Kodak Verichrome Pan negatives, still in the original cardboard envelope that was used in 1960. Remember when rolls of exposed film were carried to the chemist shop, given with care to the shop assistant and you were counselled to call back in a week? No “chimping” on the back of camera immediately after exposure. The background to this surprising find was that as a raw fourteen year old Patrol Leader in the Sarina Boy Scouts, I was heading out to complete my First Class overnight hike with a companion (Rex Pannell – where are you now Rex?).
Part of my instructions (offered to me in a sealed envelope) gave me directions to follow, and a number of map reference points where I was to take a photograph as visual proof of accomplishment. Not owning a camera at that time, my dear Dad’s Kodak Box Brownie 2A was pressed into action. Stern warnings were given about treating the valuable device with great care; always shoot with the light over my shoulder; hold it steady – the instructions were endless, and my teenage brain was at full capacity.
The photograph in question was taken at our campsite for the night; a minor stop on the main Brisbane to Cairns, North Queensland railway line, which went by the delightful name of Oonooie. It was here that I took my second Art Photograph. There is no other way to describe this masterpiece of abstraction. The disembodied mechanical device beside the endless steel of the rails.
Yes, I did pass my First Class Hike. I like to think (now) that it was the calibre of the photography that did it. But, sadly, I feel that deep and meaningless fine art photography was not respected in the deep north of Queensland in the 1960s.
That was to come much later in my life – and sadly to the consternation of my Dear Old Mum, who felt that I was indulging myself and not settling down to a steady and real job!