Going back for an evening of Italian food in my time machine.

There used to be a restaurant on 9th Street, in the middle of downtown Austin, called, Italian Gardens. It's been gone for maybe twenty years. But when I found the negative of the image above all of the memories of sliding downtown in an ancient Karmen Ghia and slipping into one of the many empty, free parking spots just in front of the restaurant, and settling in for an over the top meal of garlic bread, pastas, soup and little pizzas, all washed down with Chianti that poured from a bottle with a wicker cover, came rushing back as though it was yesterday.

That's one of the charms of having been a photographer for many years. I can't remember a time since I started that I didn't have a camera of some sort over my shoulder and ready to go. In this case it was my ancient Canonet QL 17 III. Stuffed with a hand rolled length of Tri-X.

I read now about how cellphones and pocketable mini cams have now made it possible to carry a camera with you everywhere. I laugh. We never felt unduly burdened by having to carry a small rangefinder and a pocket full of fresh film...

I love portraits taken over tables in dark restaurants. The only technique is to plant your elbows firmly on the table and make the intersection of camera and forehead the third point of your human tripod. Breath out and click. It's a technique that made film seem faster and less grainy and still works with digital captures. (What an icky word...).

While it's seems important to stride out into the big world and catch images of kinetic strangers you should not forget the pleasures of imaging closer to home. Take your camera to dinner along with your loved ones and you'll create documents that mean more to you in five, ten or twenty years than countless hundreds of photographs of strangers walking on random streets. They mean nothing to the rest of us but for you the personal images will be like fine wine aging in a barrel.

Doesn't matter which camera you use as long as you use one. The memories are fragile. The photographs make them stronger.


  1. Aaah, such a sweet photo of Belinda, and nice memories on top. Plus, of course, your small rangefinder was what they call "full frame" nowadays. During that time when we were younger, 35mm was called Kleinbildfilm (="small picture film").

    I used to be a musician during that time, and we spent most of the evenings in a small Italian restaurant after rehearsals. In the end the owners were like friends. Aaah, memories...

  2. I assume the fastidious wrapping in black tape is to prevent the Canonet from falling apart? ;-) Mine always wobbles and creaks precariously.

    Lovely photo, by the way. Making Tri-X used with a 35mm camera look so crisp is no easy feat.

    1. Taped only to make its chrome finish more discreet. The camera is still solid and functional some twenty years later...

  3. Text and photograph hit the target (once again).
    Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I agree ... a camera doesn't have to be pocketable to be a carry-every camera (though the smaller it is, the more "everywhere" really means "everywhere" !) My own 70's era compact rangefinder was the Minolta HiMatic 7sII.

  5. I couldn't agree more about the repugnancy of the term "capture." I love making photographs, but I loath capturing images.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. My wife usually brings a compact digital camera when we go to dinner. I agree with you about these types of photos. They do bring back many wonderful memories. With some of the great compact cameras out there now there really is no excuse not to bring one along. Thanks for sharing this lovely photo with us.

  8. Wonderful memory for you Kirk. I too have a little camera with me everywhere I go. It still doesn't get any better than Tri-X, but then I often tend to prefer the old way of doing things, not just with photography.


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!