Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Super Ikonta This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
Three hundred millimeter zoom. Black. Slightly bumpy ridged leather, bordered by painted black metal. The hard edges of the camera reflect the industrial design of a bygone era, the early post-war years. At the top, metal dials and knobs protrude from the body, tiny visible screws anchoring them to the leather and metal. The lens zig-zags away from the front of the camera, connected not by a metal bolt but by a delicate leather bellows, folded crisply. The dials – aperture, shutter speed, range­finder – gleam in the reflected light. An inscription etched into the soft leather reads, “Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta 531/2.”
***
Seventy millimeter zoom. The camera sits, nestled under the arm of my great-grandfather, Henry. The two are frozen in an old snapshot, fading with time, yet still the quintessential portrait of photographer and equipment.

Henry and his cameras were inseparable. Throughout his life, he toted them wherever he went, looking for photo opportunities. Even in his later years, when his memory had all but disappeared and he no longer took pictures, Henry still carried his cameras. They were an integral part of his identity.

We still have his photographs, some hanging framed on the wall, others – thousands of them – stuffed into shoeboxes in the garage. Whenever I flip through the photos, I feel a visceral connection to my family’s past, and to Henry through the art he left behind. Henry died in 1994, but his memory endures through his photography.
***
Eighteen millimeter wide-angle. I sit on the sofa, the yellowing snapshot in my hands. Ever since I took up photography four years ago, my family has compared me to Henry. “You’ve got Henry’s gift for photography, Connor,” they say. I hope that mine proves as lasting as his. Throughout high school, I have quietly chronicled life through the lens of my Canon Digital Rebel XTi, attending most school events for my school newspaper, camera in hand. Sometimes, with my camera bag slung over my shoulder, I feel like Henry, tromping around Orange County in search of the perfect photo.

Today, my connection with Henry is even stronger: balanced on my lap is his camera. After years of neglect, the exterior is not nearly as pristine as it once was. The black paint has chipped off the lens, the viewfinder is yellowed, the rangefinder filled with dust. The faint smell of my grandfather’s cigars clings to the camera. Since 1994, the metal flap containing the bellows and lens has remained sealed.

I push the release button and, with a snap, the bellows pops out, freed for the first time since Henry’s death. The lens and dials are just as shiny, the bellows just as crisply folded as they were in that old photo.

A few days ago, I took Henry’s Zeiss Ikon to a camera store. I desperately wanted the camera to work, hoping that years of disuse and neglect had not damaged it permanently. For the second time, the bellows unfolded, the lens gleamed in the sunlight. The shop owner opened and closed the shutter, tested the bellows for pinpricks. Finally, the verdict: “The camera still works.”

Before leaving, I ordered rolls of 120mm film for the camera. Soon, I hope to use it again, 53 years after my great-grandfather bought it.
***
Three hundred millimeter zoom. Black. Slightly bumpy ridged leather, framed by chipped, painted black metal. But this time, the camera isn’t in an old photograph; it’s in my lap as I sit on the sofa, connecting past to present, present to past, me to my great-grandfather Henry.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





Join the Discussion


This article has 13 comments. Post your own!

toxic.monkey said...
Jan. 3, 2010 at 9:13 am:
man this so amazing... just reflects how people don't need any elixir of life to remain with us
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
zoe said...
Jan. 30, 2009 at 6:46 am:
Great essay!
Excellent use of perspective, description; evokes strong images and emotions with your personal connection to the past and future.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Gburglax said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 7:07 pm:
Outstanding, felt like I was listening to a story with accompanying photos.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
diana92688 said...
Jan. 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm:
Very interesting essay. Writer has a nack of pulling you into the story. Reminded me of an old camera I have hidden away and haven't used in almost 50 years.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
liznover said...
Jan. 5, 2009 at 2:04 am:
You drew me in, and I'm a terrible photographer! So, good job.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Disaster Twin's Mom said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 6:12 pm:
I can really see and feel this story. I so enjoy the connections this story makes past and present and to my vision and my emotions.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
roblazaro said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm:
Great Essay; Very interesting!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Dandoona86 said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm:
This was fantastic! All you needed to do was close your eyes and you were there!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
esnow said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 8:13 am:
The theme of trying to find a connection to the past gives the article a bittersweet feeling
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
DoylestownDave said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 3:27 am:
A great piece, it reminds me of my grandfather and his bellows camera and the connections between "modern" and "old fashioned." I like the style of the piece: rather poetic!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
carla123 said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 2:57 am:
This is a superb article. Shows great promise as a writer. I see "published" in her future.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Tennisbud said...
Dec. 22, 2008 at 8:26 pm:
Heartwarming to read a story in which a teenager values the past, values family connections. I was pulling for you at the end of the article--I wanted the camera to work! You pulled me into your story!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
tomasx said...
Dec. 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm:
Excellent - the narrative made me want to keep reading. Precise style without wasting words and effective combination of technical jargon and family nostalgia.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback