Culture vulture

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

Look, Look, Look
Picture if you will a small boy, age about 4 years, clad in the simple raiment of a ranch child: sturdy leather shoes, hand-me-down denim trousers and a striped T-shirt. He is seated at a dinette table with a tablet of rough paper in front of him, and next to that is a box holding a bottle of shoe polish of the sort that has a ball of absorbent material suspended from a wire attached to the inside of the lid of the bottle.

Probably inspired by his mother’s recent introduction of an ABC book into their reading sessions, the little fellow uses his pencil and paper to copy the shapes of the letters of one of the words on the box’s label. L-O-O-K, he scrawls with no comprehension of the word he has formed.

About that time his mother happens to pass through the kitchen, and the tyke points to the result of his labors and says, “Mama, what’s this word say?”

Bemused and perhaps a bit surprised by her offspring’s motivation and accomplishment, the young mother sits down and recites the letters. “L-O-O-K,” she intones, placing her finger on each letter in turn. “That spells ‘look.'”

“L-O-O-K, look,” the youngster repeats with glee. “L-O-O-K, look.” The word astounds him. It has eyes that look back. It is the most wonderful word in the world. For days the young Culture Vulture would spend an hour or more at the table with his tablet and pencil writing LOOK LOOK LOOK LOOK over and over, filling sheet after sheet of paper with this self-fulfilling incantation to perception.

It’s still one of my favorite words and occupations.

Writing with light
There are few things as fun as developing a deeper relationship with an old fascination. Culture Vulture, for example, has been fascinated by cameras and photography for as long as memory extends. My dad’s Brownie, with its glass flashbulbs that popped and bubbled, was one of the most revered objects in my childhood world. Magic it seemed to me then, and still does for that matter, that a little plastic box with a roll of paper inside could somehow capture the moment when my brothers and I would proudly pose with our shiny new cap gun six-shooters in front of the Christmas tree.

Getting my own Kodak at age 10 or 11 was a formative experience, the highlight of my early photographic career being a trip to the Los Angeles Zoo sometime in the mid-'60s. Somewhere in the rafters of the garage I think there’s still a box containing a snapshot of a troop of baboons that turned out pretty good.

But recently I’ve come into a hand-me-down digital camera of decent quality and been bitten, or re-infected, by the camera bug. The near immediate gratification of being able to download photos to the home computer instead of having to deal with film processing helps a lot too.

So, while I will no doubt become more and more my own photographer, I still encourage the photography-loving friends of this column to e-mail their own most interesting images to the address in the byline of the column. With your permission I might even print one occasionally.