It nears two weeks since my favorite camera shop, Crick, in Kansas City, Missouri had to close its doors for good. Few things I have experienced in all my photographic endeavors over the years have affected me quite like this closing. It seems unfair that I had the privilege of working with them only four plus years, having made the connection upon moving out to Kansas back in 2012. I recognize that change is the only constant, but sometimes change such as this comes across as unnecessary and mean-spirited. I was just getting my legs under myself as a film photographer, and now a major part of the associated support system is gone.
At its root, this is a story about connection and the loss thereof. I do not make connections easily or often. This state of affairs exist at the intersection of introversion, reflexive mistrust of people, and ingrained fear of embarrassment. These traits are not a badge of honor but rather a constant source of anxiety and doubt. Life would proceed much smoother if they could be overcome. That conquering of myself has been a decades long self-improvement project, open ended, and ongoing. As part of that work, it is photography in part that has enabled me to overcome those drawbacks of character to better engage with the world.
Photography has had a grip on my imagination ever since I understood just what it meant to "take pictures". That grip waxed and waned over the years but never truly left me alone. In architecture, in life, the camera and its output served as a touchstone with which to stop time and get a grip on myself. I have said before that the camera for me has become a "filter and shield" by which I can interpret the outside world while keeping it at bay so it does not overwhelm me. It is no stretch to say that peering through the viewfinder provides a centering of the self that cannot be found in most other entertainments of the mind.
Filter and shield the camera may be but it also serves as a connection point. A kingpin in the train of actions and objects that all photography involves. Photography allows for me to pursue a vision of the world in my own way. It does not ultimately allow for a total disconnect because there are things I cannot accomplish on my own in the art of taking pictures. No matter how much I wish it were otherwise there is far more for me to learn about the art and science of photography than I already know. This is where the camera serves as a link to those from whom I can learn.
Arriving in Kansas years ago I had given up the luxury of the local links I had formed in my time back in Maryland. Bags of gear accompanied my ambitions. What I needed was a point of connection in my new home to restart the process of discovery on film and image. Fortune was kind in that Crick Camera Shop turned out to be close to my new home and had a great reputation for service and products. I gave them a go and never looked back. Not only did I get good advice and good service, I formed a friendship with the staff. For someone who is as unsure of his professional self as I am, this arrangement was truly welcome. It is a wonderful thing to have help in what you are doing from people interested in what you are doing even if you yourself are not convinced you know what you are doing!
When Crick announced their closing I felt shock and sadness. As I stated earlier, I do not connect easily. The loss of a connection such as this meant I will have to start over in some capacity. Other sources will have to be found for the hardware and consumables incurred by photography. In this day and age of the Internet of Stuff that probably will not be as big a deal as I imagined. The truly difficult and more important thing, is the reestablishment of human relationships that I came to understand truly benefited my eye and skill as a photographer. Today I stopped by the store to pick up a big roll of background paper, part of the odds and ends of inventory they are seeking to offload as they shut down for good. It was sad to stand in the store space stripped of most everything but fixtures and memories. It is the end of an era, one that will hold a good place in my photographer's heart.