The Thing You Bought For No Good Reason

Every photographer I know has things in their camera bag, studio closet, or equipment shelf that they cannot explain to themselves. Of course there are also things that are inexplicable to the general public but I am talking about the right-down real cuckoo in the photographic nest – the mystery object.

Quite often it is complete, with instructions, a start-up disc, accessories, and a fitted cover. It can be in a box with specifications printed on the outside and a link to a website…but it is still as foreign to the ken as the black monolith in ” 2001- A Space Odyssey”…and the photographer has the receipt from the shop and a hole in their credit card to prove that they do indeed own it.

Even if you can successfully unravel what it is…whether that be a double-yoked reverse projection screen ball joint locking keeper flag unit or a copy of ” Pimp My JPEG ” on an Atari cartridge…you have no idea why you paid out after-tax money for it. If it was free you could understand it being there. Photographic detritus has a way of washing up wherever there is a backwater. But this is something you exchanged what could have been beer money for.

It generally marks the sad history of a stillborn idea. Perhaps something that you thought you could do…or thought that someone would call upon you to do…that never eventuated. That is the case with the bellows unit that always formed the background in a system shot for the SLR in the #Waterlogue  era. You got to see all the stuff that the manufacturer made for the camera in one picture and that damned bellows unit was always there in the back. It was generally big, complex, and well-finished. Everyone wanted one, quite a few people bought them, and no-one ever used them. They were the photographic equivalent of a case of canned gefilte fish.

I can offer one consolation – if you keep the whatever long enough it may rust shut, and then you can legitimately throw it out. Or the foam rubber seals may deteriorate and render it even more useless than it was when you couldn’t use it.

Or you will have another bright idea and it will be just the thing to form the centrepiece of the project. I have a Novoflex part that has dogged me for literally 50 years that is just now being put to good use. Being Novoflex, it works as well now as ever it did.




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