Friday, April 25, 2014

Through a new lens.

Drawers are full of history. My mum's nightstand drawer is no exception. Neglected items are stashed away and have comfortably made a home in the dark. Foreign currency rusts away in the corner. Unused notebooks accumulate dust, and an almost full Tums bottle is labelled with a 'best before,' that dates to 2011. But in every sheltered hideaway, one might be lucky enough to find their personal treasure. There, protected in its weathered leather case, was my mum's old (but working) Nikon film camera; the 'One Touch 100'.

I imagined the hype of this thing in its heyday- a tacky 80's commercial using words and phrases like: slimmest, automatic, flash, portable, batteries not included. I giggled. Today it is exactly the antithesis of its description. But there is no denying the sturdiness of this Japanese made unit. And man does it bring back memories. I remember how mum and I would walk 15 minutes down the streets of Kowloon, to get the photos developed at a cosy corner store which doubled as a home, owned by an old Chinese man with the sweetest demeanour- a smile I will never forget. I also vividly remember how my mum scolded me when I opened the back of the camera, and the photos developed with this partial red hue that would have vintage-enthusiasts today to foam at the mouth (I'd like to believe that I pioneered the Instagram filter). 
As much as the thing brought back memories, it obviously documented them as well. This chunky anachronism filled up albums and scrapbooks to the last page. Capturing everything from our overseas adventures to my early childhood years. When I found the camera, we talked about the places it has seen as if it were an old friend. She told me that it is 'older than you and your brother, I've had it for 27 years.' 
My beautiful mum in her 20's, in Frankfurt taken by the Nikon. You can see the strap of the leather case hanging from her hand. 
Yet, despite its rich history she was ready to depart with it. Saying things like 'collecting dust,' 'obsolete,' and 'waste of money,' to buy the film and to get it developed. When did my mother become this hip millennial? Or maybe I'm being too nostalgic, I am a romantic about the past and I always have been. You only need to look at the box of plush toys I've selfishly stashed away in my wardrobe that I've refused to let go. Or perhaps it's my naive retrospective tendencies which make me believe that we have somewhat lost a sense of intimacy in a digital world. I long for a time where I can look over a tangible photo album with a friend over a coffee. Where our personal 'Kodak moments,' were shared only between family and to those we chose. Oh, and of course the dude that works at the photo shop.   

I was annoyed at the fact that my mum doesn’t share my sentiments, it bothered me that she could so easily let go of the camera, the presence of which upon recent discovery I found to be emotionally evocative. But when I looked through the pages of her scrapbooks; each photo embellished with borders, titles, stickers and colourful paper cut outs. I realised that this inanimate thing started and finished its purpose in my mum’s life a long time ago. That is, to capture memories when her children were too infantile to realise the importance of them. I understood that the possession of photos to recall the joyous, the grievous or the bittersweet were more important than any old camera. After our brief talk I slid the camera back into its case, my mum with all her motherly instinct noticed my adolescent melancholy and said, ‘take it, it’s your turn’.

I went down to our nearest photo specialist at our local shopping centre run by an employee who was blatantly disinterested by my excitement. I bought a roll of 35 mm film and loaded this bit of treasure for the first time in a long time. 


  1. You're so lucky that it was still working! I found the old camera my parents used to take all my childhood pictures with a while back, but sadly enough it didn't work anymore. Anyways, I completely understand your sentiment for objects that have so many memories tied to them.


  2. Thanks so much for the response Sabine! That's such a shame to hear. There are so few things that stand the test of time. It was gratifying that the camera still worked. Xx