‘We lost a lot of good photographers in those early days,’ the presenter laughed, and then proceeded to tell another anecdote regarding how it wasn’t uncommon, if you were having a bad day in the late 19th Century, stuck under your fabric dark room, in the sweltering heat as another exposure failed, to take a cheeky swig from a bottle of pure alcohol, to then find out you’ve accidently drunk from the bottle of Potassium Cyanide instead.
We were listening to a surprisingly interesting presentation at the Christchurch Art Gallery on the early beginnings of photography, which when in its infancy, was reduced to exposing images onto polished glass. The various toxic chemicals involved regularly resulted in either accidentally poisoning yourself via the fumes or careless inhalation, or unknowingly reducing the odds of getting cancer while you hung around carcinogenic compounds all day.
For some reason, it made me think of the Stephen King book I’m currently reading, Misery (I realised that if I was going to write horror stories, I should probably read a few, especially as I find horror movies too scary) For those that haven’t heard of it, it’s about an author who is saved from a car crash by a psychotic nurse who forces him to write a novel for her. The author has to use a type writer with a missing ‘N’ to write the new book (the letter ‘N’ is manually filled out afterwards. He doesn’t have to write an entire book without any words with ‘N’ in it, that would be silly… and very difficult) while he’s held prisoner by a mentally unstable woman who regularly torments and tortures him.
It did occur to me, while I tap away on the keyboard and use Photoshop to edit an image of an old camera that I took with my phone – which I think might be ironic but I’m not sure – that things could be a lot worse.