When I look at this photo of Don walking through his shop which had existed for three generations in his family, before it was looted and burned in May, amid protests which turned in some cases into something more, what I see first is all the destruction of a place I love. The darkness and scorching, all those cameras neatly lined up on the shelves. How many hours have I spent staring at them, with my wish list for cameras or a new lens growing longer, talking with Don about the virtues of one over the other.
I see so much darkness. And feel the pain that propelled all that destruction.
But then, I look again and I see Don, persevering, his headlamp glowing, carrying bags of whatever gear he was able to save. He knew exactly where every single camera was and all the stories attached to each piece. Central Camera has always sold lots of great used gear and each kit came with a story; who'd owned it before, a man, a woman, a father, grandfather, an uncle, a mother, grandmother, aunt or nanny perhaps. In some cases the stories tended to kind of sad. Someone passed away and now, the gear had been found in a box and sat unused, and someone in the family had brought it all in to Don. Lots of times, many film cameras had lost a great deal of value but an exchange was made, money pocketed. But then, the cameras and lenses would be cleaned and prepared for sale and join the ranks of so many other cameras awaiting new homes. The resurgence of film especially for new young photographers, meant that many days, if you hung around the shop, you could watch fresh young faces come in and look and select a camera that somehow spoke to them or had just the fel or lens or format they were looking for. And so the cameras were transformed, much like the stuffed bunny in The Velveteen Rabbit, into an object of love and potential or new creative energy.
Where some may see a burned out store, I see love and community and diversity and a home for photographic arts in Chicago with Don and his staff right at the heart of it.
This is why I'm offering a special sale of prints of limited edition of 5 of one of my favorite photos from my project,The Waters We Swim In, which I've been shooting entirely on a Leica Q I purchased from Don. In fact, to get it, I had to trade in almost every other camera I had and then some, because Leicas have never been inexpensive but worth every penny, and it's been the perfect camera for this work. (if only it were waterproof...)
One of the reasons I love this picture is that it came into being with so much serendipity. I'd photographed my friend Tai last summer in Lake Michigan. Tai has been generous in her enthusiastic sharing of this project. Out of the blue, I received an email from Sylvia, a friend of Tai's who I didn't know at all but she had seen some of the mother and daughter photos from the project and wanted to participate herself. It's always amazed me how this works. The magic of the project and incredible community.
So we set a day for Sylvia and her daughter, Viola, to meet and float and make photos. To say that Viola is a much loved child is an understatement. She's always extremely comfortable in the water and arrived for the session with two complete mermaid outfits. I could see that Viola had this luminous quality as she floated and seemed completely able to ignore the camera and enter her own world. I feel like I always know when something special has happened, a decisive moment, but I always worry or suspend judgement till I see the film or in this case the digital file. This was one of those moments.
Recently the image was selected for online exhibition by Elizabeth Avedon which was a real thrill and honor.
Now only three prints remain.
And to protect your investment, this image will never be printed at this size again.
25% of the funds go to Central Camera in support of their rebuilding. The sooner they can do this, the better. Make your purchase for yourself or as a gift for someone you love.
Print 3 is $250
Print 4 is $300
Print 5 is $350
Purchase with Venmo (Hillary-Johnson-1), Zelle (email to use is: calmchicago at gmail dot com, PayPal (@HillJPics), or cc.
Support the dream and enjoy this beauty forever.
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