I sold my Leica today.
Or, I should say, my husband sold my Leica today. I only have the patience for one go at eBay. Paul persisted until an enterprising Russian bought it and lined up a friend in CA to whom to have it shipped (I once made the mistake of not specifying I’d ship within the US only, but that’s another story).
It wasn’t a “real” Leica – it would never have been sported by Robert Capa or Henri Cartier-Bresson – it was a beginner’s Leica. But this thing meant more to me than just an interesting film camera that was nice to look at (so nice!). I find that I’m having a hard time with the impending separation. I’m not a gadget person, but cameras are my weakness, and the Leica is the ultimate camera. The fact that I could own a Leica was a big deal. I mean, if I could own a Leica, then maybe I could be a serious photographer! But…I haven’t used the damn thing in three years!
I also have an old Kodak Brownie camera that I think still works. I can buy film for it at the amazing Central Camera – where it is handmade by some camera saint in both black and white and color. At least five years ago I bought an eight shot roll of film for something ridiculous like $40, loaded it in my darkroom…ahem…closet, and took it and my Brownie to Norwalk, Wisconsin, to document the last time we visited Paul’s grandma before she moved away from her hometown.
At least five years later, that film is still in that camera. I know that that Brownie is not light-tight. I visualize the pinpricks of light seeping around the edges, through the cracks, through holes that aren’t visible to the human eye, ruining my undeveloped roll of handmade film in its slight paper sleeve.
Here’s the thing. The things that we own don’t make us what we want to be – we make us what we want to be. My photos with the Leica looked like crap, except for that one time I figured out the right combination of overexposure and sparkly Lake Michigan lighting to make a few amazing, ethereal photos. My Brownie shots likely look like crap, if they exist at all, and I’ll only find out if I ever get back in that closet, unload the film, wrap it in tinfoil, and take it back to Central Camera to have it developed. I’ll never be a real photographer, but it’s not because I don’t own a Leica anymore. It’s because I use the P mode on my digital camera and because I’m lazy. Letting go of the things you have loaded with “meaning” is an important step in understanding your own personal bullshit, and in letting it go.