The Kindness of Strangers

People give me things. For free. Mostly camera-related stuff.

I’m not sure why this is.

Early this week, I went to the local craft-supply store to get some picture-hanging stuff. I almost went to the other one in town, but I’m glad I didn’t!

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I have magnetic signs on the sides of my car, advertising my photographic services. A woman saw this, came up to me and said “My late husband was a photographer. I’ve got some rolls of seamless background paper cluttering up my garage. Would you like them? For free?” Sure, I said! And she mentioned something about other camera equipment too.

I called her the next day, went over there and we chatted for a bit. When I left, I came home with a couple of 9-foot rolls of seamless paper. And a complete Bronica-S medium format camera system! Four lenses, two backs, and a bunch of filters and accessories. I didn’t even know what it was at first…I shoot a Bronica ETR-S as a back up to my digital camera, but I’d never seen this particular model up close. Wow am I grateful!

These things happen to me with pleasant regularity, and I don’t know why. Some of it is dumb luck: I just happened to be in the parking lot at the right time. But that doesn’t explain everything.

A couple of years ago, I bought some expired large-format film from a Brooks student. A few months later, I bought some more from her. She said she was going to quit school and skip the whole commercial/fashion photography thing, and move away and open a wedding photography business. She knew I loved film, and large format photography. So one day, she calls me up and says “I’ve got a complete 4×5 camera here, lens, filters, film holders, tripod…you want it? I know you’ll use it!”

That’s how I got my really super excellent large format camera. Worth thousands of dollars.

Perhaps it’s because people can tell I love film. And it’s true! I shoot digital for professional reasons, but I shoot film for fun. Before this was a career, it was a very intense hobby. At one point I had over forty cameras, and all of them were film-based. Mind you, most of them were bought off ebay for under $50 or so, but it still became a storage problem (if not a psychological problem). Fortunately I decided to pair down at the same time I went pro. But I still love film. I develop my own black and white film in the house! It’s cheap and easy.

Speaking of film, I’ve had strangers I’ve met on the internet send me film, for free. I had a guy in northern California send me his old printer, so that I could better do alternative-process printing. He wouldn’t even let me pay him for the shipping! He’s since become a good friend, even though we’ve never met.

I’ve got a bunch of darkroom equipment, much of which people have given me. Sadly, I don’t have as much time to use it as I did when this was a hobby. But I can look around my office, and my closets, and think “awwww…remember when so-and-so gave me that?”

I don’t think I’m charming people into giving me free stuff. I think it’s just obvious that I love photography. And not in a digital-high-tech keeping-up-with-the-Jones sort of way. If this were not a commercial consideration, I’d be happy making pinhole cameras out of oatmeal boxes and bits of tinfoil (which I have). That wouldn’t sit well with a client of course!

I think that love comes across to like-minded individuals. Or perhaps people who used to feel that way, and want their stuff to be used by someone who still does feel that way. I’ve given away cameras and things too, so I guess part of the photography community’s spirit of giving.

What do you think? Do people give you free cameras and stuff too?

2 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. I can tell you why, just look at your blog! You are sharing what you know with thousands on the internet. Your Photoshop tips were worth a lot to me personally (especially the skin darken one).

    What goes around comes around!
    Thanks Matt!

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