I recently found the perfect metaphor for myself. Our glorious daughter Sasha, who lives and works on the east coast, likes to travel up the Adirondacks to relax and unwind when she can eke out a little time for herself.
One of her first stops is an antique shop that has a truckload of very old cameras. She rarely brings me back fewer than three for my little collection. I had to take a step back when I saw this one, a Falcon Flex. Being in the art and science of it since 1967, my voracious appetite for the history of photography has found me sleuthing out the nooks and crannies of the last hundred or so years.
When something I’ve never heard of before stopped me dead in my tracks, I knew it was time to take a breath and start digging. Most people consider me to be an oddity, and certainly not an acquired taste by any means. Life is most definitely black and white for me; the only shades of grey I know of can be found on the gradient charts we used to use way back when to understand the proper way to expose and develop black and white film.
I am a firm and rigid believer in right and wrong as defined by God, the list being clearly visible on the Ten Commandments -- which are getting harder and harder to find these days. We all have turning points in our lives, moments that propel us into a heretofore unexplored region of the universe. Falling in love at first sight with Phyllis was number one for me. Meeting her family and being instantly accepted as a member of the family (never ever happened to me before or since) was my second. Those people showed me what love was, what friendship was, and what good pasta was.
The birth of our daughter was another defining moment -- for I immediately recognized that I no longer was the center of the universe -- she was, and still is, the most important person in my life. The last time I stood my world on its ear was at 3:30 in the morning in 1998 as I was driving out of the security gate in the country club where we live. I was on my way for a moderately long drive to work, a job that cost me a lot in physical and emotional upheaval.
As I approached the stop sign, I yelled out at the top of my lungs “JESUS, I AM YOURS!”
Here I am, totally committed to ‘being in the world’, not ‘being of the world’, and this never-before-heard-of camera pops into my life.
I firmly believe the internet is not meant to be a long-term solution for our communication problems. When you have 95% of its content devoted to pornography, when most people under 30 are spending 9 hours per day attached to their cellphones and blindly staring at some website, good, bad, or indifferent, you have created an addictive vehicle that has as its singular purpose to draw people farther and farther away from God.
Yes, there are great things you can access. Yes, your neighbors can help you locate your lost dog, and yes, if you are reading my blog or looking at my photography -- you are probably doing it online. This is the crux of the dilemma. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The internet as we know it today is barely 25 years old. Try to get an in depth analysis of events that occurred before around 1980, and you are skating on thin ice. The reason for this is simple. History is of little use to people these days. With the attention span of a gnat, most individuals just-don’t-care.
So, when I wake up the morning after Sasha gives me this charming Falcon Flex camera, I start searching for info on it. Literally, absolutely no hits on the first Google page. Same bad luck using Duck-Duck-Go (a much more reliable search engine that does not try to politically adjust the search results – as if a camera from 1939 could have anything political attached to it.
After tuning my search criteria a little, (remember, I was a full-fledged software architect for over 25 years) I find the ONLY results that can be spelunked on this beautiful little heirloom.
TWO FUCKING PARAGRAPHS
That was it. This nifty little twin lens reflex was manufactured in New York in 1939 for one year. All of a sudden, ding-ding-ding, an alarm goes off in my brain and I am rolling on the floor laughing. That in itself is a miracle because with all of my physical ailments, I can run a marathon faster than I can find a way to get up off the floor.
THIS CAMERA IS ME
Here is the perfect metaphor to describe what Gary Gruber is. I am those precious two paragraphs. This is going to sound egotistical, but I assure you it is not. Ever since I took my first photograph, I could see the value in (or lack thereof) of every image I ever snapped thereafter. I spent weeks back in the 70’s trying to get a gallery in NYC to look at my European street photography https://www.ishootup.net/street .
After my first TWO years in the desert, I put together a portfolio of my otherworldly public relations photos, and people laughed at me. Today they are my fastest and bestselling images (https://www.ishootup.net/coda-exhibit-2).
Phyllis almost threw me out of the house (she didn’t think they were magazine worthy images – the publisher went gaga over them) when I told her I was going down to Palm Springs Life Magazine to show them my pool hose photos (https://www.ishootup.net/our-pool-hose). That got me my second big spread in the magazine ( https://www.palmspringslife.com/gary-gruber-photography/ ), my first was in 1993 when my former boss, Milt Jones was still alive).
While I am truly not trying to become ‘famous’, I wouldn’t mind if more people could see my work while I’m still around to answer questions, sign young women’s tee shirts, etc. etc.
Unfortunately, the local gallery that represents me is full of ‘pop’ art – they subscribe to the ‘bigger is better’ philosophy. I live by the words of my mentor, Dr. Thomas A. Richards, the primary photo instructor at Syracuse University. He said: “If you can’t make it good, make it big.”
I remember participating in a local outdoor art festival once (around 1978). I couldn’t make prints larger than 11 x 14 back then, and a young man (expensively dressed) strolls in with his significant other in tow. He looks straight at me and says, “I need something large to fit over my couch, show me what you have!” I turned towards Elizabeth W. who was helping me for the weekend, and I swear she saw razor blades shooting out of my eyeballs.
The best I can do now is 17 x 22, which is one of the reasons the gallery has put me on the back burner. I completely understand the notion that taste in fine art fluctuates wildly, but I really enjoy being old and feeble specifically so no one could ever associate me with the current generation of shlock artists and the things that inspire them. I find my hemorrhoids far more interesting than most of the photography that passes for ‘captivating’ on the Internet.
To be fair, there is some modern art that I enjoy, but in almost every case, it’s going to be something that magnifies the beauty of the world. My current two projects, “House Plants” (https://www.ishootup.net/houseplants) and “Birds in the Backyard” (https://www.ishootup.net/) are 100% inspired by my love of God and everything He has created (except mosquitoes and red ants). My philosophy is simple: God is the artist, I’m just the messenger.
This is why I find myself so enamored with this funky little camera, the Falcon Flex. Now if I could just find someone to write two paragraphs about me and publish it, maybe I could simply get back to work and stop feeling sorry for myself…