When you are between 4 and 7 years old, the siren song of the Christmas tree, the glow of its lights, glitter and glass globules can be irresistible.
And on December 24, 1966 we all opened a gift before midnight… this family ritual we observed since I learned how to talk.
The kids around the Yule would pick out a box based on its smell, or feel or how it sounded when shaken.
And there was nothing particularly fancy about the box I grabbed. It was just more of a feeling… a feeling that would appear more often as I got older… a hunch… a sense of something big on the horizon that was my life so far.
And as I peeled away the cheap wrapping paper, the ink imprinting my fingers with ghost images of a simpler time, a box was revealed… imagine my delight seeing Made in Hong Kong and then an orange box… Diana-F Camera.
My first camera was the classic sixties Diana-F complete with rolls of film, magnesium flash attachment and an instruction booklet.
The Diana’s original all-plastic lens ensured that dreamy, gorgeous, color-drenched, always-blurry, and mind-blowing results were the norm. And behind this cameras cheap viewfinder was a kid who was seeing almost everything in his World for the very first time.
At 16 shots per roll, it was entirely possible to capture valuable portions of ones childhood with a few rolls of Black and White 400ASA 120 roll film – all ironically processed via the neighborhood druggist who would out source it to the closest photo-finisher, who in turn would edit out the more bizarre compositions and often, sadly, return a roll of film with no images but a envelope of cut film – with a druggist who sheepishly explained to yours truly that, perhaps, I had left the lens cap half-off or inadvertently smudged the plastic lens with petroleum jelly.
Which is exactly what our memories look like now – when viewed through the tarnished lens of cerebral memory.
That camera survived a good 3 or 4 years of hard use, shaping and honing my skills as an active amateur photo historian in my little corner of the World on Vancouver Island. By the time I turned 12 and graduated from elementary school I was rewarded for my academic successes with a German made Zeiss Ikon 126 cartridge camera – photo above – In comparison to the all plastic Diana, the Zeiss was staggering in its ability to capture detail – gone were the surreal and impressionist interpretations of my environment… replaced with pin sharp mirror images of a boy’s life on the verge of adolescence. The sixties were over.