I went to my first estate sale a couple of days ago. It was mildly saddening. So many of us in the affluent West spend time buying things and work the many hours required to pay for these items. Inevitably, these precious things become fodder for pop-up junk sales.
A neighbor mentioned that the estate had a lot of photography related items. I was curious so I went. By the time I got there, I saw some old film gear and endless boxes of slide carousels. No doubt the owner was a serious photographer but mostly in the film world. There were a couple of really old digital point and shoots, completely overpriced. I think it’s really risky to buy gear in these situations, especially digital. You have no idea if they work properly. I would prefer to buy from a reputable local store or a place like KEH where they offer money back guarantees.
What did interest me, however, were the books. There was a sizable library of photo books, both portfolios of famous photographers as well as how-to guides. The collection was telling. Books on early versions of Photoshop and how to move from film to digital. Did the owner successfully make the jump to digital? Of course, I’ll never know. Most portfolios focused on landscapes or on the Western U.S. I saw no books on street photography, for example. I guess you can tell a lot from someone’s collection.
I found 4 books of interest and at a couple bucks a pop I added them to my personal collection of clutter. There’s “Avedon’s at Work in the American West”. Presidential photographer David Hume Kennerly’s beautiful black and white collection shot on a medium format Mamiya 7. Ansel Adams’, The Making of 40 Photographs. The only color book was from famous landscape photographer, Galen Rowell.
I thought about my legacy of photographic clutter. Instead of stacks of Kodak carousel slide boxes, I’ll have plastic external hard drives, completely useless without power. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have a bewildering array of digital cameras with no discernible connection. Perhaps my heirs will find this blog and try to make sense of it.
Someday in the future, my “junk” might be auctioned off at a fraction of their original prices. My photo stuff will be bought by someone who will then add it to their pile of junk. On the other hand, digital retains very little value so my cameras might be trashed altogether. Perhaps the books that I bought today will be worth more than the digital cameras I often write about.
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