Wanted: Inquiring Camera Girl

My husband says I am too young to wax nostalgic, and on top of that, I’m a firm believer in looking forward, not back (Philippians 3:13).

So I have to admit I surprised myself by getting all misty-eyed today over the treasures I brought home this weekend.

At the Paris Street Market on Saturday, I picked up a couple of ivory Travelor suitcases and an old-fashioned globe. They reminded me that it wasn’t always possible to go halfway around the world in a day.

I also snagged an antique bookstand, and a book to go on it: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, published in 1961, by Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer. The fact that Jacqueline was known as the Inquiring Camera Girl for the Washington Times Herald (“now defunct”) made me think about how, thanks to Facebook, we are all Inquiring Camera Girls now.

My favorite treasure, though, is the one from my parents’ basement: my dad’s Kodak camera, the first camera I used in high school.

I was surprised to remember that not only was there no autofocus, but there was no manual focus either! You had to measure (as Dad did) or guess (yep, that would be me) the distance between camera and subject, then set the dial accordingly. No wonder I was always giddy when I got my pictures back — it felt like my birthday every time I took a roll with every shot in focus!

I also picked up my grandparent’s Kewpie Kamera. If you didn’t want to process your own photos, Sears & Roebuck could do it for you for “a reasonable price, plus postage.”

And just because I was feeling a big nostalgic, I also lugged home their typewriter, a Royal Quiet De Luxe. I am pretty sure De Luxe is short for weighs a lot, and clearly the person who named it Quiet never actually heard it work.

All of these treasures reminded me a more leisurely pace of life. When I used the typewriter, I had to purposefully slow my thinking so my fingers could keep up. Or when I sent a letter in the mail, I’d have to wait weeks to savor the hand-written reply from my sweet grandmother, whose letters smelled gloriously of powder, perfume, and Aquanet.

I remember shooting film in college and not knowing how my pictures turned out until I finished the roll. Even in the darkroom, there was more waiting (accompanied, of course, by the irresistible smell of developing fluid). In the darkroom, time stood still, and what seemed like minutes were actually hours.

Now we can take a picture, see it, enhance it, and Instragram it out to the world, all in sixty seconds or less.

We can get our news in real time as it happens. And we can type almost as fast as we can think on our smartphones, then shoot off an email or text before we’ve even had time ponder whether our words were the right ones.

Sometimes I think the immediacy we know today has changed us.

And I’m just wondering: Are we better for it, or was there beauty and reverence in the slowness that we have lost forever?

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