No fuzzy photos, shurely, ed?
Rule #1 for aspirant photographers: never mention the aspiration to Working Professional Light Monkeys (WPLMs). Rule #2: if your actual friends are WPLMs, they may concede that you can construct the occasional well-formed sentence but never a picture. Rule #3: If a WPLM gives you any praise, for whatever reason, ever, be very happy. There are some fairly legitimate reasons for this. I'll elaborate later.
In the meantime, I have always loved taking photographs, ever since my Gran, Molla, gave me a Kodak Brownie 127 when I was old enough to aim and press the shutter button. Most pics I took with it ended up in-frame. I took relatively few as film was strictly rationed. This was better than Molla, who contrived to miss with her own camera whenever possible. She singularly failed to capture an image of more than my late brother Paul’s hair.
I managed to get this full-length one of him, proudly protecting Dad's Alfa, with my Brownie that continued in service for quite a few years until I “inherited” a VIEW-MASTER Personal STEREO CAMERA from my Grandad, Cecil; the one not married to Molla. Wait a minute, are those wine boxes on the left of frame?
Actually, for Cecil, a great pioneer of photography, the stereo camera had been a trinket. He had wanted me to have his Leica M3 and lenses. My step gran wanted the Leica for herself and gave me the stereo job so she could claim she’d carried out his wishes. Initially the 35mm format and some adjusting knobs added an exciting level of sophistication. Sadly, however, the stereo meant that the slide images were ¼ of a frame. Extracting anything from those tiny slides these days turns out pretty fuzzy, as my attempts at portrait photography demonstrate.
I very much doubt that any one of Barbi, Jane, Sue, Viv or Carmela would have paid good money for these "portraits" from the tiny slides.
In 1972 I became a reporter on The Daily News in Durban. I bought myself my first “proper” camera, a used Pentax SLR, and started trying to become a WPLM. This never happened, despite achieving the front page with a full-frontal nude of a proper WPLM streaking on his motorbike. This led to some notoriety when the then pictures were rather less expurgated than hoped for. The pictures editor had “missed” with the appropriate black censoring cross. I have tried to recover the negs so that I can blackmail said WPLM but they have mysteriously disappeared.
It seems WPLMs just materialise suddenly from the ectoplasm and immediately close ranks. I did learn a bit from a famous photographer who ran a course at our local uni, though. He eyed up his students, dripping with Nikon kit, and ostentatiously pulled out Molla’s Instamatic when he took us out on a field trip. We processed the black and white film back in the labs that afternoon. Readers will already have guessed whose results turned out best. I did learn that it was all about eye and composition. The latter can be fairly easily doctored after the fact, and I’ve witnessed a few WPLMs doing that, but the raw material has to be in there somewhere. That is where the eye comes in.
As my recently acquired son-in-law (not a WPLM) sagely commented, while walking along a canal before lockdown and hearing me complain that I only had a smartphone with me, “the best camera is the one in your hand when you need it.” Do you know what? I got a cherished WPLM compliment that day: “nice pic Banj.” It was a closeup of a nicely lit piece of moss on some Victorian brickwork.
.A long standing buddy of mine, Gillian, used to be a WPLM (literally) until recently. Most of my other WPLM mates originated from print journalism, some of them moving on to other things. Gillian had a formal art education and she and I were an item for a while in the very early 70s. My cousin Jane of the earlier fuzzy photo was the catalyst. When we met up again, decades later, Gillian was Ligapie. She actually claimed recently to like fuzzy photos but I do not recall having received a compliment from her for my own work. Ever.
I do understand, really. WPLMs make a living from their photography and are constantly being squeezed by smartphone jockeys.
“There are game rangers out there with modern smartphones. They are in amongst the wildlife day in, day out and can take 1,000 snaps in a day. There is bound to be the odd decent one in there, somewhere,” explained Daryl (a.k.a. Bikey), a renowned wildlife photographer. Gillian, although a caring, gentle soul, would hold a similar view, having had to fund a couple of studios and heaps of expensive equipment.
And if you want to wind up JP just ask him why his Hasselblad, studio-crafted work is so expensive when one can “just do that on my smartphone”. His response would be more blunt than Gillian’s but the message is the same. If you want a reliable photoshoot you’re going to need someone with the experience. Imagine cocking up someone's wedding memories? Quelle Horreur!
I did sell an image on Adobe Stock a few years ago (above). Got paid £0.30 and jokingly suggested I might qualify to be a WPLM as a result. Well, this is a polite blog so I shan't report the responses to my suggestion.
I do have 22,000 digital images of my own and there are maybe a few halfway decent ones in there. The primary objective of this column is to record (mainly wine) drinking expeditions, exploits, capers and related japes.
Japes range from gentle perambulations with the wonderful, artistic Shelley-ann for dinner and wine in the back lanes of the Cinque Terre to staying around long enough to savour the puppy on the right in its prime.
Maybe the odd Slightly Less Fuzzy Photo (SLFP) could slip in to underline a point. That. Is. Not. The. Primary Objective. And Gillian graciously took a swathe of splendid photos to celebrate my 60th.
So that’s an explanation for the first half of the title of this series. If I get one to two “nice one Banj”s out of it I will carry a wine induced smile with me into the next world.
Coming next: A little undecided at this stage. Might try a bit of Back to the Future with a car filled with blank bottles or continue with the early days' potted history? Watch this space at a similar time next week ...
 Probably accounts for 22,000 fuzzy photos in my digital catalogue today and my reluctance to archive them.
 And inventor of a lot of other things including an electronic liquor cabinet … more about Cecil in a later chapter.
 Fake news alert but it WAS identical
 Her professional moniker was Ligapie (a Saffa take on Albert Einstein’s “Lichtaffen”) or Lightmonkey for quite some time.
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