It was Ferrari red, hard plastic, and in the hands of a technologically challenged five year old with no experience of holding a real camera it was probably the most technological thing I owned. I would hold it against the light and press down hard on its button to set its internal organs alight – only then would it show me the world. I used to perch myself on the windowsill in the dining room of my parents house which looked precariously out onto College Road pretending to ‘pap’ some unwitting students, sometimes knocking on the window to get their attention. Circumstantially to my Mothers annoyance and embarrassment this was also the place I used to stand, naked, pressed against the glass; I refused to wear clothes until I was at least six years old, – since then it seems I’ve spent my life looking out of windows, or through cameras.
This was my connection to an outside world that I didn’t even know existed. Through it I could see herds of zebra on a sepia tinted landscape before my eyes, what looked like the Amazon Rainforest, the desolate tundra – I had never seen anything like it. Yes, this was my connection to the world beyond the oppression and stigma that being five years old holds, spending my days outdoors clutched in the grasp of my mothers hand, or chained into a by that time too-small-for-me buggy or pram that I knew I’d have to leave soon in place of my baby sister, though I wasn’t going to give up my throne that easy.
I think each of us has those defining toys, the ones which inadvertently become symbols of our daily lives and the lives we choose to live as we grow older and wiser. My Ferrari red, toy camera which gave me my first glimpse beyond the world in which I lived is long gone – probably lost in that big dump over by the Kinsale Road Roundabout, remember, this was before recycling became fashionable. Most of my childhood is probably somewhere beneath it’s earth with all those other pre-1997 childhoods in a graveyard of our dependant selves. Since then I’ve traded a camera for a computer screen.
I am a reluctant traveller. Not because of a fear of flying or any reason in particular, I just don’t think I have the imagination to dream up a trip away. I guess I see the world as something to be travelled through, though the idea of being in one place all my life does scare me. But I am not ready for that big adventure just yet – to be fair though, I am still in college, and will be until September.
It occurred to me recently that what if the only view of the world is through a computer screen, through your tv, through word of mouth. I have stared at photographs of the Northern Lights, at Deep Sky Areas, and have watched more documentaries on Incas, Aztecs, and other long forgotten civilisations than I care to remember and the truth is that those images are sometimes all we have of reality. But how can a rectangular image really be an representation of the reality of things?
I have decided put my cameras down and that childhood toy, that symbol of my view of the world, that two days ago I started planning a month long trip I want to take when I finish my Masters because I don’t want to spend my life experiencing the world second hand.
…and I’ll be bringing my first camera. Turns out I had two pretty good ones on my face all along.