An anniversary of a vacation that never happened

Wander Shooting (verb) : The act of walking/wandering through unfamiliar places taking pictures and sharing prints of the results.

August, 1992

My Grandad and I sat together in his room, each aware that we were talking for the last time.  Lying in the hospital after going full bore for 79 years, he knew instinctually that his time was nearly up.  It was evident when he let the doctors know that he would not be moving to hospice the next week.  It just wouldn’t be necessary. He was the kindest man I ever knew but if his mind was made up on something it wouldn’t be easily changed.

Ever the one who consoled when I was young, he slipped into that role when I said I couldn’t stay.  There was a job to do on the West Coast and it would take a week.  He jokingly told me that while he didn’t understand what I did (I was working in video production), he knew I must have enjoyed it.  With that said, I stayed until he fell asleep and then left for the airport.

It wasn’t 3 days in Monterey, CA when the word came that he had passed.  You would like to think that knowing something would occur would somehow blunt the sense of grief, but it was cold comfort when I’d underestimated the feeling of powerlessness that came with not being there with him.  Motivated to commemorate his life, I wanted to make pictures as an attempt to manifest the loss.  As I sat on the beach during a break, it occurred to me that we had never taken an ocean vacation together.  All this time in Maryland and it never occurred to us.  So the last day in California, I walked the beach with a Polaroid camera and Type 655 P/N film and shot the vacation we never took.  1960’s style.  The film type was critical, because that particular Polaroid film created a decent sized print as well as an medium format negative that could be enlarged later.


Walking the beach for most of the day, with a tupperware container of diluted Sodium Sulfite (used to clear and preserve the negative until it could be properly rinsed and dried) I was able to make many images that remain important to me and give prints to the people I photographed.  It was the first time I used the film and the process for a wander shoot and I was able to do it only a couple of  times before that film was discontinued.  It was incredibly messy but the images could be amazing.



Now years later, I’ll be able to do the same thing again, but with modern tools.  Not exactly the same, as the Polaroid camera was like a Diana, all plastic lenses and “who knows what the shutter speed is” levels of control.  You never quite knew what you would get from it.  The Fuji on the other hand is consistent and sharp and much more like the old 35mm film cameras.


I loved the old wonky Polaroid process, but I’m really looking forward to Wander/Street Shooting with the Fuji x100T and the Fuji Instax printer.  (Which is reminiscent of Polaroid SX70.)  No bins of solution are required, but I’ll be able to walk and shoot and give the prints away like it was 1992.

It’s a different time and place, but I’m hoping that it’s as much fun today as it was meaningful then.

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