Monday, April 20, 2009
Gifts that keep on giving
Last month, I was given a spectacular gift by an old friend. My one-time photographic mentor, Bill, is going to be moving to Hershey, PA, with his wife Margaret. Bill's not doing so well, and has not been able to use any of his wonderful cameras for a while. I'm helping him a bit, by visiting and getting him to remember events and his long-term memory isn't so bad, but short-term varies greatly. He's already parceled out most of his gear to his grandson (a pretty good photographer), and his sons, and of course, to me as well. I'll try and help him deal with some of his remaining gear and books, etc., but I know it'll be frustrating for him. Of course, I will miss him once he leaves the area, and there is always that unspoken acknowledgment that there are not many years left in him. I'm more accepting of that than to see a fog descend over someone's mind, and render memories into fugitive moments that may or may not reappear.
I do what I can to keep Bill's mind engaged-- I send him a typed letter every week or two along with a photograph to let him know that I am very much engaged in photography. I know he appreciates them, as he has mentioned that more than once, and unlike a conversation, he can read them again and not have written words fall off into a chasm.
Bill had previously asked me if I had a Nikon F3, and that he had a case of Nikon gear that I should take with me. I had always delayed the topic, feeling that he had already given me so many great photographic things, that I felt guilty about bringing it up. In late March, we talked at length, and Bill told me to go to the closet and pull out the aluminum case that had the Nikon tag and take it with me. We would get to the other bags and boxes at a later date before the move to PA. I was hesitant to even look in the case, but when I opened it, and saw the mint F3HP and FM2N and lenses, I knew that he had probably run film through those cameras only a few times each. It was my duty to become the custodian of that equipment and use it and appreciate it, just as Bill would have if he'd been able to do so.
So, just as Bill's other camera gifts to me gave me so much enjoyment over the years, the Nikon F3HP and FM2N and lenses will keep on giving me some of the best tools for making photographs that a film-loving nut like me will need. The 85mm f1.8 Nikkor AF-D lens is another one that I had wanted for a long time, as it is great for portraits on film and digital. The F3HP's high-eyepoint viewfinder is wonderful for a glasses-wearer like me, and the difference between that and any DSLR finder and most film SLRs is simply something to be experienced.
My best tribute to Bill will be continuing to keep on photographing, and to help others out by mentoring, when possible. It's the gift that keeps on giving.