early 1960's

First Exposure

My first camera – a 2011 wet-plate collodion picture of it.

I tagged along when my older brother suggested I join him in the darkroom at the Cincinnati Museum Center that was just opening in the magnificent unused Art Deco Union Terminal train station.  Our father was an enthusiastic supporter of the museum center and my brother John worked as an intern there for the summer. It was a quiet weekend afternoon and even quieter in the darkroom under the orange safelight. I don’t remember what he was working on but I will always remember that magical moment when an image appeared on a blank sheet of paper in the tray of developer. That was all it took. I was hooked.

I asked my parents for a camera and was rewarded with one my grandfather had owned. It has an ironically appropriate name: Wirgin. I spent my allowance on some 35mm B&W film, a developing tank, chemistry and all the accessories I needed to see what I could capture with that little mechanical marvel. I took pictures of family, pets, the yard, the neighborhood – wandering around carefully choosing my subjects.

I went home and developed the film in a bathroom that had no windows.  I hung the magical images from the shower curtain rod to dry and then waited for a chance to go back to the Museum Center to make prints of my own pictures. I was committed.