The View Up Here

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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.

– Tom

One Response to “Scissors”

  1. Rachael said

    It almost looks like a metal sculpture.

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