In my early thirties, I wanted to become good with a camera. My father had taken me and my half sister to Europe for the first time. We saw Paris, and worked our way up the romantic highway in Germany. I had my trusty little point and shoot, which almost always took pictures in focus, and I thought that was fine until I got back and developed all the pictures. They didn't capture the "feeling" of what I had seen, and I was determined to do better.
When I got home and showed my pictures to a couple of my friends who were into photography, they said nice things, but didn't really mean it. I pleaded my case for them to teach me how to become a photographer and how to develop and print my own film. The only way they would agree is if I promised to use nothing but a completely manual camera for the next year. I was desperate and agreed. My manual, you have to take you own light readings, set the aperture, shutter speed, compose the picture, focus and shoot. As if that wasn't enough, there are numerous combinations of aperture and shutter speed that will work, based on the speed of the film you chose.
They settle on a used Pentax K1000 35mm camera. The reason for Pentax was their lenses were rated second only to Leica's glass. As neat as all the functions and gee whiz gadgets are, the bottom line is how good is the lens. So for the next year, I set about learning everything I could. I read every book they suggested and then some. I had them critique each roll of film I shot. I bought used lenses and tripods. I even bought a used set of black and white dark room equipment and learned how to develop and print my own pictures. I got much better. It was now a matter of choosing what type of "feeling" I wanted to create with the image and deciding which was the best way to accomplish it.
The next year came around, and it was time to visit Europe again. As much as I begged and pleaded, my mentors refused to give in on their ground rule of me using a manual camera for the first year. So off I went to Europe with my K1000 and a bag full of black and white film, as well as a few rolls of color film. This time I did capture the feeling of what I saw. But the story doesn't end there.
When the whole year had finally passed and I was allowed to get a motorized, auto focus, gee whiz camera I had been researching them for six months. I chose a Pentax PZ1. It was the top of their 35mm line. The body alone was a thousand dollars. I had been saving all year for this, and I was able to get a gray market camera from Europe of the same model for less, so that I could afford two lenses with it. I was beside myself the day it arrived. I grabbed one of my mentors and we headed down to a little bar called Crook's Den. There weren't any crooks there, but they always had scantily clad bartenders there that were really cute.
The bartender that was on duty that afternoon was one that I had known for a few months, and was extremely friendly. I was bragging about my camera and taking shots of the locals who would let me. The bartender got off work and stayed around for a few drinks as the evening shift settled in. She decided she would let me shoot some racy pictures of her, to send to her boyfriend in jail to keep him company. When I asked about his opinion of a guy shooting pictures like that, she assured me that she would tell him one of her girlfriends took them.
Well, she wasn't kidding about racy pictures. She was down to her birthday suit in no time. I decided like was good, and this was the most wonderful way to break in my new camera. We took shots of her on the pool table, in front of the juke box, and in the men's room pretending to use the urinals. The patrons of the bar couldn't have been more helpful in moving out of the shots, moving furniture and they truly enjoyed the show. Once we were finished the drinks came from everywhere for the rest of the evening for both her and me. As the bar closed, we decided to hit an after hours club, and I was still shooting pictures with the best of them.
About four or five in the morning, I asked her if she wanted to go develop the pictures and see how they came out. Being in a small dark room with this beauty wasn't such a bad ending to an evening that had gone surpisingly well. I developed the film and then showed her each step of the process to make prints from the negatives. She was a sharp girl and caught on quickly. We made print after print. We made big prints. We made small wallet size prints. We made so many prints it became obvious that I wasn't going to get lucky that morning. I begged off saying I was tired, and she asked if she could make some more prints. I aquiesed and went off to sleep.
When I got up, she was watching television. I saw a very large stack of prints in a manilla envelope beside her. I had a nice evening, so I didn't bother her about the cost of the materials. I took her home and dropped back by Crook's Den to see if there was a second encounter like that. The moment I came through the door I was swamped with questions by the patrons as well as the owner of the bar. She ended up getting fired over the photo shoot, but didn't hold any hard feelings toward me, since it was her choice to do it where she worked.
A few years went by and I never thought much about the shoot. I heard from her a few times. She found some cameras one time and wondered if I wanted to buy them. They weren't really worth anything, but I gave her twenty bucks just from the guilt of her losing her job. From time to time, someone would show me one of the pictures I had taken and she had printed. She was apparently quite proud of them and distributed them freely.
Almost three years after shooting these pictures, I was leaving Crook's Den when a car pulled up and a guy jumped out and asked, "Are you Badger?" That was my nickname as well as the name of my business so I said yes. All of a sudden he punches me in the face about three or four times. I was reeling from the impact of the blows, when he demands the money I made from selling pictures of his girlfriend. I look into the car to see the bartender from years ago and was aghast.
I told him truthfully that I had never sold a single shot of her. I would have needed a model release form to do so. He demanded the negatives and said that if he ever did catch me selling any pictures of her, it was going to be worse than this time.
I had been drinking long enough that I didn't want to deal with the cops that evening and have to leave my car there. So I went home and tried to file charges the next day. I didn't know his name, and since it happened the night before and I didn't call then, the police took a statement, but that was all. It was pretty clear to me that she decided it was better to tell her boyfriend that I had been selling the nude pictures of her, rather than admit to her printing and distributing them.
That was the only time in my adult life that someone had beat me up. With all good intentions, you never know how some events in your life will turn out and the strange path of consequenses.