Black Is BlackThursday, September 02, 2010
In our decision to buy a new, but used, car before September 15, when we finally give up our Audi lease, Rosemary finds the colour an important feature. One of the cars we saw today (and has been in consideration for at least two weeks) was a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. This car which I think is quite a neat and handsome car (built on a Saab platform) is black and to make it “worse” it has dark tinted rear and back windows. “It looks like a hearse,” Rosemary told me. Another car that was in our possibility list was a 2005 Mailibu LS that was dark gray. “This car is a dowdy,” Rosemary complained. I tried to explain to our Korean salesman, Sam what the word meant. “It is sort of old maidish.” Luckily, this car, certainly within our budget and the more practical choice had been sold.
A third car was a 2005 Chevrolet Epica (Huh? What’s that? ) which had made Rosemary smile because it had many features that her soon-to-be-history Audi has. This car was a strange dark metallic blue/violet. Rosemary loved its light gray, soft leather interior. That car had been sold, too.
This left the hearse-like Maxx and another car that had been mentioned to us last week. It was a 2006 Chevrolet Epica that had just arrived but was not available for viewing as another salesman had taken it home for testing. We finally convinced Sam to show it to us. It was being detailed in the shop but Sam managed to have it driven out and it was parked where we could see it.
It is a beautiful car but it is black. So now there are two cars in contention. One is the black Maxx which is a neat hatchback that happens to have a DVD player in the back seat (“Great for Rebecca and Lauren, Rosemary said.) and, not one, but two sun roofs. Rosemary does not like the fact that the hatchback has no independent and lockable trunk. The Epica is looking good and we know that most of our friends will say that buying a Korean made GM car would be a mistake. But I would counter that the car at 52,000 Km has only 2,000 more than our Audi.
It was today that I told Rosemary that so many of us have forgotten the original reason for things. The purpose of car paint is to protect a car’s metal body from rusting. I told her about John DLorean’s 1981-82 car with the gull wing doors which flopped and that one of the reasons may have been that its body was made of unpainted brushed stainless steel. I a brand new car would in a few shorts month develop a dull finish. Paint has become more than a protector of the metal beneath it so we must wax it, undercoat it, polish it, etc. We become obsessed with the very thin coat that at one time came only in one colour, black in Ford’s Model Ts.
Another example of a loss of our memory of things has been the lowly and, erstwhile, useful car bumper. The purpose of a bumper was to protect a car’s body from dents and minor collisions. In the early 70s one of the fastest accessories in Mexico, for the ubiquitous Volkswagen beetle, was the super-sized rubber bumper attachment sported by contemporary Porsches. The VW’s bumpers were notoriously flimsy.
The bumper no longer protects a car’s body. In fact all you need to do to prove the point is to gently back up our Audi onto a Honda Civic’s bumper (the Civic’s), with its centre mounted license plate to cause a $300 bumper repair on the Audi. Bumpers are now designed to crumple and protect not your car’s beauty but your own personal rear end.
For many years the difference between a professional photographer (in the days of the silver halide) and a rank amateur was the colour of his (there were next to none female professionals so I will not apologize for being gender specific) camera. The amateur camera was brushed chrome or silver. The professional’s was professional black.
And those with real class (uppity to say the least like me!) were extremely proud when the black paint would wear off or chip to show handsome brass underneath. I would tell people who would comment, “That Mamiya of yours looks like it has been around the block,” “I use my camera. I don’t keep it as a collector’s item behind glass. This is a photographer’s camera.”
Now I know of people who specialize in giving old black Leicas a new coat of paint to make them look pristine. Collectors pay large amounts of money (after complete mechanical overhauls) and then place these treasure items in shelves or glassed-in cases and will never ever use them (what a tragedy!).
I own three Mamiya RB-67s with many film backs, four 35mm black cameras ( a Widelux Panoramic, a Pentax S-3 and MX, the latter two seen in photo here). They are all chipped and worn and I could not trade them in for anything if I tried. Should I have taken care of them and kept them looking like new?
Digital cameras are now all made of black composite plastic with bits of metal here and there. What’s the difference between a rank amateur and a professional? Would you believe that is an all white, telephoto Canon lens?
Now in the years that I have had these three Mamiyas I have dropped one of them into a hot tub and all three, at one time have fallen to the floor while still attached to the tripod. In fact last week as I was taking portraits of Dean Paul Gibson as Falstaff and of Alessandro Juliani as Henry V with my IPhone, my backup Mamiya (with Ektachrome) went crashing to the floor when one of the legs of my tripod slipped and collapsed. The camera went flying. The heavy pentaprism separated from the camera as did the fragile focusing screen. I calmly kept taking my iPhone portraits to the horror of Gibson and Juliani. After that re-assembled the Mamiya (nothing was broken) and took my pictures.
A glitch in the Apple syncing procedure between my IPhone and my computer erased the Gibson and Juliani portraits. But if the folks reading this blog will look back to a few days you might note that I did manage to get relatively decent portraits of the Shakespearean actors.
Here is my theory. Had my camera been a Swedish-bodied Hasselblad (lots of titanium) there would have been severe damage to the camera. The Mamiya has an extremely heavy pentaprism (which allows for eyelevel viewing). The securing mechanism to the camera body is flimsy. When this camera falls to the ground (and I have had this happen to me countless times) the pentaprism goes flying. This prevents damage to the camera.
My Mamiya and other black cameras look terrible. But they work , they last and never let me down. Could the Mamiya’s pentaprism design be something similar to the modern or the old-style bumper? Whatever it might be, I look forward to pulling back the curtains of our bedroom windows soon to look at a shiny black car.