Posted by Tom Benedict on 10/04/2011
Back in the late 1990′s, my wife bought me a Bender 4×5 monorail camera kit for my birthday: my first large format camera. This was no accident. I’d recently finished reading Ansel Adams’s “The Camera”, “The Negative”, and “The Print”, and I was driving her up the wall with my need to get a view camera. The kit took several weeks to build and finish, helped to some extent by an onset of bronchitis that had me out sick from work, hacking up a lung.
Of course once you have a camera everything starts to look like a subject. But I restrained myself. Look at it this way: Each exposure is a sheet of film measuring 4″ x 5″. Each sheet needs to be developed by hand. Each negative then needs to be printed, again by hand. Making a 4×5 exposure isn’t the same as clicking the shutter on a 35mm camera or on a digital camera that can hold thousands of photos. It’s an investment in time, money, and effort. Every one should count.
So I chose carefully. One of my earliest photos with my Bender was a re-creation of a photograph Ansel Adams made of a pair of scissors with a thread dropped across them. I had a pair of Wiss sewing scissors my mother had inherited from her mother. They were the scissors I used when she first taught me to sew, her Fiskars being far too valuable for me to use at that age. When my mother died, I inherited the scissors from her. I couldn’t think of a better pair to use for the photograph.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my wife and I recently ditched our old sewing machines and picked up a new Janome. A couple of weeks after getting the machine I pulled out those Wiss scissors. They’d seen better days. The years and the humidity here in Hawaii had taken their toll. So I cleaned them, oiled them, and very carefully put new edges on the blades. By the time I was done they were once again cutting cloth as if it was air. It was with some reverence that I put them in our new sewing box.
Still, one problem remained: These are right-handed scissors. Every pair of sewing scissors I’ve ever used has been right-handed. But I’m a leftie! Time to get new scissors.
Unlike my mother and my wife, both of whom are Fiskars people, I really like the feel of metal on the hand. I guess that’s convenient, considering what I do for a living. It also explains why I love those Wiss scissors so much. Pure and simple. And left-handed, please. As it turns out the owner of the sewing store in Kona is also left-handed, so of course she had just what I wanted in stock: 7″ left-handed Ginghers. Solid steel, great heft, a good fit in my dominant hand, and a joy to use.
The Canon T2i I ordered should arrive in the next week and a half. I still have the 18% gray card I used as a backdrop for the Wiss photograph. Today when I went in to Kona to pick up some blackout cloth for work, I also picked up a spool of white Güterman thread. Camera, scissors, thread, card. Time for another photograph! And time to celebrate another new camera.