Often you hear about people having recurring nightmares. Sometimes they involve standing in front of a crowd naked or showing up to school and forgetting where they’re supposed to be. My recurring nightmare involves getting onto an airplane to head to some distant country and realizing that I have forgotten my camera. Seriously. I typically have this dream around the time I am getting ready to leave on a trip, naturally. It never fails. I wake up in a panic soon to realize that I haven’t left yet. That, of course, is met both with a feeling of relief and with the realization that I am a bit obsessive. I take thousands of pictures when I travel. My array of photography tools are constantly being rotated out of my backpack, and I rarely travel with less than three types of cameras. Additionally, before I leave on a trip I already have set in my mind which shots I am going to try and get with each camera. I don’t plan every shot that way, but you can be certain that I have already thought about how I am going to capture the big landmarks. Like I said, obsessive.
I set out to France as a chaperone on a school trip in April of 2008 with the above Polaroid photo collage on my mind from the moment I was asked to go. I had recently purchased a Polaroid Autofocus 660 from Ebay for $0.99 (no lie), and it was the first non-digital camera that I fell in love with. As soon as this clunky contraption arrived in the mail I was running around Saratoga taking pictures of anything I could. Nothing was off limits, and I was stared at wherever I went. Admittedly this got kind of expensive since Polaroid film at that point, before it was discontinued, was around $10 for 10 shots. Of course once they decided to stop making their instant film cameras and focus on digital, the 600 film became a hot commodity. Also, my heart broke, but that’s another story. I immediately stocked up. Whenever I saw it being sold I bought one or two packs. In the end I think I ended up hoarding around 20 packs of film, and I have been slowly rationing it from the crisper drawer of our refrigerator for the last several years. At this point I’ve got around 5 packs of expired film left. In my eyes that makes the above shot even more precious. It’s a relic.
I am including only one photo today because this shot of the Eiffel Tower is, above all, representative my most favorite photographic endeavor. Every time I look at it I am transported back to Paris on that breezy April afternoon, the sun just getting ready to set. I remember walking along the Champs de Mars, approaching the tower from a distance, and deciding to take a three tiered shot. The excitement of watching the photos develop was immediate, hoping that I got the exposure right because the film I had brought to France was limited. I remember the random stares I got from the people, tourists and natives alike, as I composed the three shots on my knees to remain as steady as possible. I didn’t care. Getting the perfect composition was the only thing that mattered to me at that moment.
Now, three years later, I couldn’t be happier with the final product. Out of everything I brought home with me from that trip, every little trinket or souvenir, this is truly the only one that matters. I have taken a lot of pictures since then, but none so far have knocked this one out of the first place position. Meanwhile, if you’ve got any Polaroid film laying around I’d be happy to take it off your hands.