Sam Dobrow – my early days of photography

Photography has been a life long passion. Some of my earliest memories are embedded in photographs. I’m not really sure if I remember the childhood photos being taken or just remember hearing the story about the day the photo was taken. In either case the photos evoke memories of a time that was. I do remember when my passion for photography began and it is one of my earliest memories. My father gave me a Brownie camera for my birthday when I was in elementary school. I’m guessing I was in the fourth or fifth grade and it was at my birthday party. I was a shy kid but when I picked up the camera I noticed people would react differently toward me. Some would stiffen up, some would smile, and some would run away. The camera gave me a reason to engage people in a different way. It gave me a way to see people differently. It allowed me to reach out of my safe world and explore. When the photos were developed I had a tangible memory. I had pictures of pretty girls and funny pictures of my friends. The look in their eyes and their smiles and their gestures were moments that I had captured. They had special meaning to me. I loved the camera and the way it facilitated my interaction with people.

Nikkormat SLR

As I grew up the camera became a tool by which I would explore the world around me. I would take photos of my family on vacation and the beautiful places we visited. I would explore nature, photographing flowers and insects. I would walk the beach and photograph people. In high school I had my own darkroom and would team up with a couple friends to skip class so we could drive all over north Florida on day trips making photographs of our adventures. Sometimes the adventure took us to abandoned properties where we would stage photos that looked like an Appalachia documentary and others that looked like a National Lampoon vacation. I learned more about cameras and quality lenses when my dad let me experiment with his professional grade equipment including a Hasselblad medium format camera and a 35mm Nikkormat with a 50 mm f/1.2 lens. Today my favorite lenses are the Canon 50mm f/1.2L and 85mm f/1.2L professional lenses and I’m sure it is because their light qualities are very similar to the equipment I ‘borrowed’ from my father.

Next – “Early influences