Please somebody tell me that this makes sense to someone else out there besides just me!

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The Concealed Carry Camera Safety Course

“So let’s summarize.” The Concealed Carry Camera Safety instructor waited until each student had finished taking notes and looked up to make eye contact with him.

“How many fundamental rules are established for camera safety?”

“Four,” the group said in unison, as if in a platoon.

“Good. Rule number one is?”

“Treat every camera as if it’s loaded,” the class said.

“Number two?”

“Keep your camera pointed toward the subject at all times.”

“Good. Three?”

“Know your subject.”

The instructor shook his head and waved his hands in the air, as if wiping their response from their collective memory. “No, no, no. Number Four is: Know your subject, and what’s behind it. Don’t forget that last part. Learn your background before you start shooting, not afterwards.”

“Finally, Rule Number Four?”

“Do not mix different eras of photographic processes.”

“Good. Say it with me: Digital is digital… film is film… and, alternative photography is alternative photography.”

The class nodded. Some gave thumbs up signaling agreement. One raised a hand.

“Go ahead.”

“Sir, when you say treat every camera as if it’s loaded, I know that applies to film and memory, but does it cover the coated plate?”

“Yes,” the instructor said. “Older processes, such as wet plate collodion, are covered under this rule. A loaded camera is a loaded camera is a loaded camera, is…?”

“A loaded camera.”

“Good. You make me proud.”

A student from the back row raised a hand, then began speaking without waiting to be called on. “The penalty for breaking the first three rules is self-explanatory,” he said, “but what happens if we break rule number four? I don’t see a downside to mixing older and newer processes.”

The other members gasped. An older woman next to him whispered to another, “He’s one of those experimental types.” The listener tapped an empty seat nearby, and the older woman got up, gathered her paperwork, and moved to the empty seat, farther away from the student who had just asked the question.

“Son,” the instructor said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear what I just heard you say. You don’t see a ‘downside’ to mixing different eras of photo processes. Puh-lease. Does anyone want to tell this unfortunate one the penalty for being that foolish?”

Everybody else in class looked down to avoid eye contact. One pretended his shoe was untied, and bent over to untie and re-tie it, just so he wouldn’t be called on.

The instructor walked over to a locked cabinet. He worked the combination. “I’ll let me tell you by way of visual example.”

The instructor opened a cabinet drawer and pulled out a folded black cloth and a plate of 11×14 glass with something on the surface. He unfolded and draped the cloth over a display table in front of class. In the middle of the black cloth, he arranged the glass, a wet plate collodion image.

“Gather around to see evidence from Case Number 743221, back when I was on the Captured Soul Recovery Force,” the instructor said.

Todd Vinson Lost Little Girl “The original image was a family portrait of a loving, hard-working father and his daughter showing off her first Easter dress. That wasn’t good enough for this heartless wet plate collodion artist.”

“Oh… my… goodness,” the woman who moved to another seat said. “That poor innocent family. Look what he’s done to them.”

“The idiot photographer,” the instructor said, “took this old family photo, one that was legitimately printed from a film negative, and scanned the print into the computer. Then he printed digital image file onto a transparency sheet using ink jet technology.”

Several class members fought off a wave of nausea.

“It gets worse. Then, he took that digitally made transparency and used it as a negative, as if the original negatives weren’t good enough. He inserted the transparency into a traditional darkroom enlarger.

“Don’t say it,” a student begged.

“Did use the enlarger in a proper way and at least make a paper print? No, he projected the image onto, get this, onto a coated and sensitized sheet of glass using the wet plate collodion process. That final plate is what you see here.”

“Let me get this straight,” a student said. “He went from a film-print, to digital negative, to traditional darkroom, sort of, then to wet plate collodion? That’s like two and a half centuries of photographic technology rolled into one. I hope they threw the book at the sumbich.”

“He got what he deserved,” the instructor said, “but nothing could undo the damage to the souls of the man and daughter along the way. That’s a lot of soul-capturing, soul-stretching, soul-torturing to last several eternities, if you ask me. As Al Pacino said in Scent of a Woman, there is no prosthetic for that.”

“Sir, what do you mean,” a student asked.

The instructor continued. “Oh come on, you remember that scene where Al is at that school hearing, and he starts giving his emotional speech, he –”

“Sir, I mean, what do you mean when you said nothing could undo the damage done to the man and girl in the photograph?”

“It’s like this. The beginning days of photography were soul-capturing times. That’s historic fact. The early photographic processes are responsible for many eternally empty subjects. Mixing processes between eras, well let’s say it stirs up powers that are better left alone.

“We confiscated the plate from the so-called artist, and tried every extraction method available, but it was hopeless. We hope for the best, which is that they only suffered a switching of their captured souls. At worst, well let’s just hope for the best.”

“For a few years after that experience, I had nightmares of witnessing those two souls pass through each other, from knowing to knowing, one knowing where the other was headed, and the other knowing where the other had been.”

There were tears from some students.

“What happened to the experimental photographer?”

The instructor grinned. “I cannot confirm or deny that the so-called artist was repeatedly photographed in a back room with a spectrum of different cameras and photo processes, for most of the night and some of the next morning. It is rumored that a Holga was involved, but that’s something else I cannot confirm. Or deny.”

Everybody passed the Concealed Carry Camera Safety Course that day, except, of course, for the student who admitted publicly to seeing no harm in not following Rule Number Four.

In fact, he was never heard of again, except as an example of what not to ask when taking a Concealed Carry Camera Safety Course.

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