Santa Fe

For a single person Santa Fe is a good place to visit as it is casual and not focused on family entertainment. I am here for a photographic workshop which is probably my first since college. I find it challenging as well as frustrating as I am not as knowledgable as others in the class. We are learning how to use 35 MM digital cameras as well as Photoshop and the process is frustrating to me. I remember very well the beautiful simplicity of my Nikon camera with its simple F-stop setting and the round wheel that clicked softly when one changed the shutter speed. Now I have noticed in high-tech devices there is a fake sound attached to changes to make one aware the change has happened. I would rather have silence.

I first learned about cameras from my father who had many interests and many hobbies. A lot of very busy and successful people don’t have the time for this or the inclination but it is a good thing if you do. My father once went out to Yosemite and took a class from Ansel Adams. He came home with many photographs he had taken and was very proud of them. He decided we needed a darkroom in our house so he built one in our bomb shelter which had thankfully never been used for the original purpose. As it was 1969 by then I think he had decided the threat of nuclear war had ended or was at least in second place behind his new interest in photography. Before he destroyed the bomb shelter we had family bomb shelter rehearsals in it. There was a bike which someone had to pedal all of the time and boxes of fake food and games. Our family never played games so this box confused me. I don’t remember seeing water but this is not surprising as some of the time the most basic things were forgotten.

During these war rehearsals my Dad would explain how we were going to survive in the shelter for the requisite 8 weeks until the nuclear fallout had vanished.We were all assigned jobs to do in the event of an alert. My job was to fill several large, green cans with gas so we could drive to Vermont if we had time. There was an even larger bomb shelter there. He would take out a hand gun stored  in a box and explain it was to be used to keep the neighbors out of our shelter as there was only room for our family. I found the gun terrifying and thought if there was an actual nuclear event I would run away in the neighborhood and take my chances with the fallout. I couldn’t imagine being  contained in that small room with my family for 8 weeks as I had the distinct feeling some of us would not end out as we had gone in. Who would ride that bike all those hours? I rode my bike to school often but that was a 20 minute ride.

Anyway, the darkroom became our family photo lab  once the threat of nuclear war was over in my father’s eyes. He took a few hours to show me how things worked but wasn’t the most patient teacher so I promptly forgot. My friend, Leslie Simmons, showed me once again some weeks later. The two of us spent many hours in there watching images appear through the developer like monsters from under a green and  mysterious sea. My first job was developing photographs of cancer cells in a hospital as that was all I knew at 19. I had dropped out of college and needed to work so I took the first job I could find . After six months of trying to focus on cells, I returned to college.

Anyway back to Santa Fe…I think the most interesting thing about the class is how I tend to panic if I don’t think I can do what everyone else is doing with apparent ease. Yesterday I felt like I was in math class in seventh grade and the instructor  was explaining an algebra problem. I could feel a slow daze freezing my brain and a feeling of exhaustion come over me .I started to think I shouldn’t be there and I had no place in the class though it had been billed as being for beginners.I think there are a lot of us who like to say we are beginners even if we are not as we are afraid of looking stupid. I have taken classes and said this only so I could feel a bit of confidence learning what I needed to learn. Once we were in the lab with the pictures we had taken that day and everyone was showing their pictures on the screens I felt inadequate and as if I were somehow not good enough to be there. Looking back on my life I see this is something I have felt before: an unwillingness to admit a lack of ability or knowledge as I might appear to be weak or pathetic in some way. This is so interesting to me as I thought I had overcome this but apparently I haven’t. It is good to be in a place where I am not even close to being as good as the class as I have to ask for help and try harder. This is not easy for me. I would like to be easily the best. I think I will sign up for another class.

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