The History of Photography: 1981

by Matthew Cole
1980 The 1980s 1982

Place Your Subject in its Environment
Show Your Subjects in Their Environment: I mooched a Nikkor 16mm full frame fisheye from work and then Dave Dahms and Holmes Lundt showed up New Year's Day. We took a cruise in Holme's 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme out to Booneville. That's me on the left, Dahms in the back seat, Holmes driving. He'd drive this thing for another 16 years by which time it was the Chia car, with the vinyl roof gone and leaves and twigs stuck to the adhesive. Nikon FM, 16mm f/2.8, Kodachrome 64

Start borrowing Nikon stuff, including a beautiful black Nikon F2AS. Borrow a Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 New Years Day and discover that full-face portraits made with it, while intriguing, aren't particularly flattering. I get my first lens, a 28mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, which I still have. Sell the 600mm Series I Catadioptric and 100mm Fujinon lenses. Unable to afford to keep F2, get a used Nikkormat FS, a body with no flash shoe and no meter. The F2AS I loved so dearly gets bought by a professional who puts a 400mm on it, mounts it to a tripod using the camera's tripod socket, then bumps the lens and cracks the F2 body casting. Whimper. My buddy Steve O'Brien, who also works at the store, orders a chrome Nikon FM with the initials S. O'B. engraved on the back under some employee purchase/Nikon anniversary deal. Steve, who changes cameras about as often as I change my underwear, subsequently sells this camera so if you own this puppy this is why you have a son-of-a-bitchin' camera. During this period we have an irate customer with 13 rolls of 110 film for No Charge who held his new camera backwards and shot past his ear while in Europe ho ho. Do a shoot-off of my Rolleicord Vb versus Steve's Hasselblad with 80mm lens. Test shows little compromise using the Rollei, which exhibits a slight softness in one corner compared to the Hassy. Make custom PC cord, Rollei-locking to Vivitar 283. Also pick up a very heavy but ultimately disappointing Minolta 80mm f/5.6 enlarging lens, which I eventually sell. Borrow a Nikon FM and MD-11 motor to photograph explosive destruction of building in downtown Des Moines. Think it would be clever to use some special thin-base 72-exposure black & white film Ilford was selling at the time. It was. I went through about 35 frames getting the motor to work (the battery tray was loose, it turned out) so was down to 37 left for the actual explosions etc. Discovered that my darkroom and drying string wasn't tall enough for a 72 exposure roll. I buy a modest Tenba bag.

More Photo Hints from 1981

Get Close to Your Subject
Get Close to Your Subject: Maybe not this close. This is why people use 85-105mm lenses for portraits, not 16mms. Nikon FM, 16mm f/2.8, Kodachrome 64, New Year's Day 1981
Watch Your Shadows
Watch Your Shadows: So we drank a lot and slept in the field and the next morning discovered all our toothbrushes were down the valley at the farm. Here Pat Ellinghausen plays with her camera, Welsh visitor Vicki slowly awakes, my sister Ann practices dental hygiene with a warm Coke and Doobie the Light Absorbing Labrador sucks up all photons in his vicinity. Nikon F2?, 28mm f/3.5, Kodachrome 64, August 1981

e mail me