When I was fourteen, my father
gave my brother and me an old Argus 35mm camera. He showed us how to
load it and how to use a separate light meter to get good exposures.
Later, when we had taken some pictures, he showed us how to mix
chemicals and develop our rolls of film; how to enlarge our negatives
and make prints with an old fashioned enlarger; and how to use a very
hot chromium plate to give a glossy surface to the finished results. In
the weeks that followed, we made hundreds of pictures, but they are all
now lost and gone.
In 1968, I spent a year camping out at a place called LZ Bayonet, in
sunny South Vietnam. I worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week, calculating
how to point 105mm howitzers at the enemy. I had little to do in my
spare time, except fill sandbags against the next mortar attack. Then
one day a USO Photography Lab showed up in camp. I bought a Minolta SRT
101 at the PX in Chu Lai and began taking pictures and making prints
again, for the first time in ten years. I still use the same camera
today, and also have a dozen or so prints that I made back then. Looking
at myself in those old pictures, I know that I will never be as lean,
tough and ignorant again.
When I got back to the states from Vietnam, I switched to color
photography and no longer made my own prints ---- why bother when there
was a Fotomat on every third corner. I took lots of pictures in those
days when I lived in New York City ---- Wall Street in the rain, the
Brooklyn Botanical garden in full bloom, and cityscapes from the Staten
Island Ferry. As the stacks of prints grew, I began to tire of taking
pictures just for the sake of having them, and my interest in
photography slowly died away.
Ten years later, Pam and I were living in Delaware, but two or three
times a year we would drive up to Clarion to see my parents. On one such
weekend, I read in the Clarion News that an original copy of Caldwell's
Illustrated Atlas of Clarion County was for sale. This book, published
in 1877, contains hand-colored maps and drawings of houses and farms in
the county. Local history buff that I am, I wanted to buy the book, and
that is how we met Fanny Elliot. Not only was I able to purchase the
book from her, but Miss Elliot, who was frail and in her late eighties,
allowed us to drive her out into the country to the farm where she was
born ---- a place that she had not visited in twenty years. When we got
out there, she talked of her girlhood and told us what had changed about
the farm. We then consulted my old atlas and compared the farm with what
it had looked like one hundred years earlier. I was fascinated, and so
tried to take a picture which matched, as closely as possible, the
drawing in the atlas. When the picture came back, and I placed it next
to a copy of the drawing from the atlas, I knew that I wanted to make
more of these "match shots". Photography had suddenly become interesting
again. That same weekend I found my first "triple match" ---- the one
you see above. The views are from 1877, 1900, and 1977. Today this old
house is home to Erma's Place, where you can purchase fine furniture and
oriental rugs. When Spring finally comes, I do believe I will take a
fourth picture of the place, and thus make my first quadruple match shot
Caldwell's Illustrated Atlas of Clarion County, J. A.
Caldwell, Condit, Ohio: J. A. Caldwell, 1877
Reprint. Clarion: Clarion County Historical Society,
Over 1000 county atlases such as this were published in
Early Illustrations and Views of American Architecture,
Edmund V. Gillon Jr.
New York: Dover Publications, 1971.
A great source of match shots.