•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Classic


Thank you to all who were able to visit the Blurb bookstore to check out my book and for the many encouraging notes in emails and in postings at Blurb, Facebook, here, etc., and to those who decided they wanted to own it.

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Photography is many things.

When I was a child my father was always, snapping, pictures. He referred to prints as, "snaps," but he mostly took slides. Some were of family, and I recall that for a long time I was puzzled; when everyone called, "Look at the camera." what was it we were all supposed to look at there in the lens? What didn't I see? Probably I was a slow learner. Eventually I figured out that there was a connection between that tiny box with the lens and the images my father projected on a screen some weeks later. The projector with its assortment of slide format adapters and a loud fan that blasted warm air, the rectangular, plastic trays that periodically jambed, and the leggy, screen contraption... these are still tactile memories even more than watching the latest box of family slides.

When I was five or six, I recall having a small kit. It may have been a prize in a box of cracker jacks, or a trifle from the barber shop for not making a fuss about having my hair trimmed. (Somewhere there must be pictures of me with my head recently buzzed.) In any case, the kit contained several clipped negatives showing animals, and school buses, and clowns. It also contained several negative-size cards of light sensitive paper; when we put the negatives and cards together and took them out to the light of 86th Street, the paper slowly darkened according to the negatives shades. That I remember the incident at all speaks to how impressed I was.

I'd like to think that it was then that an observant adult gave me my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, and showed me how to go into a dark room and load the film rolls which were sensitive to light like the paper cards. I have no idea how I got the camera or learned about loading film. I was already doing it before I got to summer camp and began spending hours in the darkroom there. What I do recall is my father, shirtless among rose bushes. He's down on one knee and the lens of his 35mm (Was it a Leica) camera is a few inches from an open rose. Somewhere there may still be metal boxes filled with roses and pansies and tomatoes, and the wings of airplanes beside passing clouds or sans clouds. He flew frequently on business trips, the sole remaining record of which may still be preserved in these airplane wing photos. Even then I wondered why anyone would want pictures of these things, hundreds of them. My father was a very practical person, but if I'd asked him why, I'm not sure he'd have had an answer.