Gifts run the gamut. Gifts can be well thought out, over-thought, under-thought. They can be helpful, meaningful and utterly useless. They can be misguided and sometimes even tactless. They can be hopelessly practical (no one EVER wants a necktie hanger. EVER). Now-a-days, they’re even obligatory as many industries are built around the purchasing, wrapping, exchanging and discarding of gifts and the accoutrements that go with them. To me, the best gifts are the ones given for no specific reason to celebrate nothing more important than the passing of 2:42 on a Wednesday afternoon. ‘Just cuz.’
Some gifts have no idea they’re as important as they are. As the cliche reminds us ‘one man’s trash…’
Nine years ago my good friend Pierre gave me a camera. He’d been using it to display his dust collection and thought I might be able to put it to better use. I don’t remember if we’d ever discussed my curiosity about photography before or if it was just the universe doing that thing it does. It was afternoon and I was loading my recently minimized belongings into a car, about to embark on the most radical adventure to that point in my life. I was moving. Across the country. I’d just taken several personal leaps and was aiming for some new surroundings. Heading for the west coast to find ‘the Zen centre of Billy’ I’d often say. Little did he know, but Pierre’s gift was a
huge part of finding that Zen. As I was marveling at how scant my life had become to fit into a trunk with room to spare he handed me a Crown Royal bag with a Pentax K1000, a 50mm lens, a 2x converter and a lens cap (which I lost almost immediately). It was a very nonchalant gesture which I sensed had a mild amount of weight to him. Maybe he understood the beast he was about to unleash. I was very thankful as folks don’t just hand over cameras everyday and was soon on my way.
Upon landing in Vancouver I was never seen without it. It became one of my most important artistic limbs. It became my ink and paper. My paint & easel. My manifesto. My knock-knock joke. I spent a lot of time in a lot of seedy places taking pictures of garbage and other roadside attractions. Taking pock-shots at Corporate (North) America & documenting mall culture until I would invariably get the boot. I took all the shots. The churches. The silhouetted telephone poles. The wooden fence disappearing into f2 Neverland. I made custom straps for it out of thrift store ladies belts & it lived under my jacket & hoodie in the rain. It bumped around in book bags and even had a 6 foot tall mirror shatter on it (edge first) with scars to prove it. We were inseparable.
A few years ago I sold out and went digital. Went into an electronics store & asked for the digital version of my precious. The guy gave me a Canon Rebel XT. Pretty close in comparison, I guess. Fairly basic. A few months later they came out with the XTi & I then learned what a megapixel was and why two more of them were so very important. I’ve since moved on to bigger fancier DSLRs but I still take it out from time to time. I still shoot with it because, as theoretically comparable as the XT was to the K1000 it (along with all other digital cameras) is missing one very important feature; magic.
Pierre and I have since drifted apart but I still thank him for his wonderful gift. My K1000. My precious.