With this section, I have my usual first few pages of growing pains. And I have yet to name my lead character. This is becoming a running gag.
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Chapter 1 - The All-Seeing Eye
The camera never lies. The person behind it can, and often does. They spin the truth about what they're showing in their photos. They bend things just the tiniest bit. Those pictures may tell a thousand words, but at least a hundred of them are always lies, if not more.
Images themselves, when you look at them, that is exactly what happened. There may be hidden truths that you can't see, explaining away a smudge that looks like a ghost. Or maybe that wire holding up those pie tins that everyone thinks is a UFO can't quite be seen. But those images are truth, the question lies in if you know the truth.
Don't get me started on that camera adds ten pounds deal, either. That's just made up by people trying to make themselves feel better about how they look. It applies more to television anyways.
I know quite a lot about cameras, see. I work with them almost every day. The day you see me walking around town without a camera hanging around my neck, is the day I die. For the past few years, almost since graduating high school, I've worked as a photographer for a local paper, the Kraftsbury Telegraph.
Granted, the Telegraph is no New York Times. Heck, Kraftsbury is no New York. However, it pays the bills, and it serves an important function. Not everyone in the boonies of Vermont can get a decent internet connection, or even more than what comes to their tv over an antenna. Yes, it may surprise some of you out there, but there are still people out there who only get five channels on their televisions. And they're the lucky ones.
While many areas of the state may be a little lacking in the technology department, the local newspapers are still a tried and true method of getting information out to the masses. And the cows. I think Kraftsbury may have more cows than people, but I'm not going to count them. That's work for a reporter. If he needs photos for his story, that's when I come in.
I became interested in journalism early on in life. Knowledge, as they say, is power, and I craved knowledge like no other kid in school. Many hours were spent sitting alone in a back corner of the town library, or the one at the high school, devouring whatever book I came across, be it fiction, non-fiction, and even dictionaries and encyclopedias. I needed to know things. True, it was tough to keep everything crammed inside my head, but much of it stuck. Far from being a genius, but I held onto what I could.
At some point, this went from simply wanting to fill my head with as many words as possible, to wanting to know the truth. It may be a subtle difference to some, but for me it was so much more. Reading a book is one thing. It fuels the imagination, it gives knowledge, but I wanted to find things out for myself. I wanted to do more than sit in a dusty room with my nose in books. For me, the truth lay outside that room, outside the building.
Even before then, I read the newspaper every morning. I didn't have the internet yet myself, and wouldn't for a few more years. It was an important source of information, both locally and around the nation. World events weren't quite as important to me. They would tend towards being too large of concepts for a ten year old boy to grasp. I grew into those a little later in life.
Reading those papers, a habit I still have to this day, is what made me want to get out there more, come out of my shell, and the safety of the library. I wanted to be that guy, out there, uncovering the secrets, and passing on the truth to the little guy. I wanted to pass on my love of knowledge to others, and maybe inspire them to question things as well.
Around the same time, another of my interests crossed paths and intersected with my thirst. I also enjoyed art, although I was never particularly good at it. In my junior year of high school, my art teacher encouraged me to take her photography class, and I traded in my corner of the library for a much more shadowy place, the darkroom in the high school's basement.
So many of my hours were spent there in the black that the librarian was afraid something had happened to me. I made sure to pay frequent visits to my favourite, well-worn chair just to make sure she didn't report me missing to the police, if it was only to read my morning paper.
I can't put it on any specific event, nor was it a sudden revelation one morning, but at some point, there was a camera on the table, next to a paper, and I'd been seeing the similar scene every morning for so long, that they just seemed a natural fit. I was good at photography, or so the teacher said, and the newspaper had ample number of photos, so it came to be that my desire to actually write for the paper shifted almost imperceptably to wanting to be the man behind the lens.
While being a photographer may not seem like the best fulfillment of my earlier dreams, by the end of my senior year, it seemed to be a perfectly normal idea to me. There wasn't another photography class to take after the previous year, but Mrs. Murdock was more than willing to loan me a camera, and let me use the darkroom's equipment again, and act as her aid that final year of high school.
She gave me even more advice than a single semester could give, and teaching the new classes when she had to be elsewhere helped keep my interest alive, and I even got to meet some people at the newspaper. For school functions, I even became an unofficial photographer for them. There was no pay in the work, and it served no purpose other than getting word out about the local school, and getting my foot in the door.
With the end of my high school career, I felt that my photography career may well be cut short as well, but I had been planning ahead.
My parents knew I loved taking photographs, even if my mother didn't get why I didn't just use a simple old 110 camera like everyone else. Yes, this was in the days before digital cameras were almost a commodity, and we still used film. Ahh, the olden days.
But they knew of my interest, since the camera had been a fixture on the kitchen table for almost as long as my car keys. I'd made some slight rumblings about maybe adding a darkroom to the house, or a corner of the basement, and it wasn't entirely shot down. Granted, it wasn't a yes either, but anything that wasn't a flat out no is a win to a teenager.
Murdock was getting some new equipment the next year, and I made it known that rather than getting rid of the old stuff that still worked just fine, just didn't have a few fancy things some newer stuff had, that I would love to give those classic pieces a new home, if I could get the darkroom made, of course.
With the money I got for graduation presents from my extensive family, I talked my parents into splitting the cost, as their part of a present. With some more conversations with friends of the family that were into construction, not to mention from my ever faithful art teacher helping out with some advice and tips from when she had the school construct her darkroom. After only a few short weeks, we had a darkroom built into the basement.
Up until that time, I'd had my own room, and a tree I liked to sit under, but having that room where I could go, lock the door, and do my own thing in peace, quiet, and the red tinted shadows, was a whole new level of having a private space. I will freely admit part of my love for the art was those quiet moments where I could get away from literally everything and just be left alone with my thoughts, the sweet, strong stench of chemicals filling the small space, or maybe instead of my thoughts, some music I'd brought downstairs with me.
I know many of my friends would be looking for reasons to get their girls into such a room, and believe me, I had my share of offers to let them into my darkroom over the summer, and even back at school before graduation. And that's on the lighter side of some things teenaged boys might do when left alone in a room. That wasn't of any interest to me. In my mind, that room was my own private sanctum, and photography was my meditation.
Which isn't to say that there wasn't time spent down there with friends bullshitting, and just hanging out, but even when they were put away, the chemical smell kept many people at bay for anything longer than about an hour or two, which suited me just fine. However, my private time down there was strictly for photos and thinking. And the occasional sandwich, but I digress.
Now that I had that in place, and used some of my own money to buy a used 35 millimeter camera, and some hand me down lenses once again from Mrs. Murdock, I spent the summer building up a small portfolio and shopped it around to area newspapers. Even Vermont had an overabundance of papers back in those days.
My contacts at the local, small press paper also made good references. I may not have officially been on their payroll, but I gave them what they wanted, and knew the editor there personally after that previous year, and he spoke highly of my enthusiasm and work ethic.
Most of the places I shopped my work around to were uninterested in someone barely out of high school, even with as good word of mouth as I had, and clear talent. I kept at it though, and as summer was drawing to a close, I finally went to the city and made another attempt at the Kraftsbury Telegraph. They'd seen me earlier in the summer, and were interested, but the timing was wrong, for pretty much everyone. It was too early for me, and I'd not taken many photos to show off officially yet.
The second attempt went much better than the first. I was a face the editor recognised, and he definitely liked what I had to offer this time around, showing a better range of skills with my photos.
While Mr. Banks, an old man with no hair, and smelling of cigarettes from three rooms away, still had no openings at the time, he did acknowledge my potential. We had a long chat in his office, for the most part because we kept being interrupted by the regular business of running a newspaper. The lengthy talk led to the head of the photography department coming in at some point, and meeting me personally between delivering some prints, and going to pick more up.
They both acknowledged my age, and thought I should go to college, and take a few more classes while I was there. I passed along to them that I did have plans of going to the local university right there in Kraftsbury, and only lived a few towns over. Before the photographer left, I think that was Eric Moore back then? It's been so long...
Anyways, he said he could use an intern, little more than a gopher, and someone to maybe snap some pictures around the campus. The pay would suck, but considering my last photography job paid nothing, that was a step up.
I had gotten my foot in the door in high school, and as I was about to go off to college, I'd managed to stick my arm in a little as well.