My Grandpa and the Nikon F

The other day, Kellene over at This Lovely Little Day blogged about a scarf she made from a project that her grandma had left on her knitting needles when she passed away. Now, she gets to carry around a little piece of her grandma, and this sweet story inspired me to write about my own connection to my grandpa: my film camera.

I grew up never having met my grandpa and not knowing much about him, until one day in 5th grade when I got his address and sent him a letter with my picture enclosed.
"Um, hi. You've never met me, but I'm your granddaughter. Here's my picture. I hope you think I'm cute."

Of course, those weren't my exact words, but looking back I realize how bold it was for me to send such a thing to a complete stranger. And how awkward it could sound.
Despite my doubts, he wrote back and we continued our relationship through hand written letters to each other. He had such beautiful handwriting and was always so thoughtful, telling me to give Marly a kiss (I got Marly in 2006, so he was kept abreast of my excitement about that) and to say hello to my dad. He was an avid bike rider and always sent me magazine clippings of women bikers to inspire me, pretty bikes, and action shots from races. They were always so tenderly cut, the corners clipped off like many photos from the 50's and notes on the back. He also usually sent me $5 or $10 and told me to go see specific movies or to bake a cake that he really loved because he just wanted me to try it. 

After we had started sending letters to each other, it was discovered that his younger sister (my great aunt) only lived a block away from us, and a whole new part of the family I had never known before opened up, one that I am still close with today. I had heard stories from my mother that my grandpa fought in the Vietnam war, but this newfound family filled me in even more, and I found out that my grandfather was an artist and photographer that used to create drafts of boats and ships, and took many photos during his days in the war in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.
A few years after he passed away in 2007, I found a box of my mother's old stuff, which had many of his beautiful photographs in it and a letter he had written someone. On the back of the letter, he had glued an ad clipping for the Nikon F, which was all the rage at the time, and expressed to his friend that he wanted it.

That is the camera right up there. He had wanted that camera, but never got it. And miraculously, a donor gave that camera to my high school, and then my teacher gave it to me during my sophomore year. At the time, I thought it was pretty cool and my dad got it fixed for me to use in a film class I had decided to take at the local community college. I had no idea that it was the camera my grandpa had dreamed of until a year or so later when I found his things.
Now that I know about this connection, I appreciate my camera much more and am grateful for the talents that I know I inherited from him. I am a big believer of things happening for a reason, and I believe that he made sure that if he couldn't have that camera, that I would somehow end up with it, and that I would discover the connection it held. 

As something a little extra, I thought I'd share with you this piece I made that was inspired by him.
It is a photo transfer on canvas with mixed media collage and details.

Do you have any cool connections to your family?

Unknown said...

That's such a cool story about your grandpa! I still write letters to my own grandma because she's terrible at email! It's such a fun and personal way to communicate!
P.S. I nominated you for a bog award, go check it out:

andrea m. said...

what a sweet story. i love film cameras and they all hold so many memories.

andrea brionne

inventedromance said...

That was SUCH a touching story. And your little letters sound absolutely adorable! Oh my gosh. The whole camera situation is just so cool. And what a beautiful artwork to commemorate him :) I just love this story haha! Glad I found your blog :)