The other end of the camera

Susan Manzke

When I was 7, my parents gave me a camera. It was an Imperial MARK XII Flash. I know because I still have it.

It is red, and I had to wind the film onto a reel before I could take a picture. As a little kid, I took photos of relatives and pets, all in black and white. I think I took a picture of my finger, too.

Susan, Sunny, Steve Kemp and Randy Peterson

I do remember using flash bulbs. Each one came out very hot after its onetime use, burning my fingers a number of times.

I couldn’t take as many shots as I would have liked. The film and developing were expensive for my parents. They had to limit me to big family events. Until the developing was done, no one knew if I shot more of my little sister and cousins or my fingers.

Through the years, I’ve had all different kinds of cameras. An Instamatic was a big step up for me. The flash was a cube, and you got four uses out of it before it was done.

Dad, who loved gadgets, had one of the first Polaroids around. The film would pop out from a camera slot and then had to be timed before the developer covering was peeled back to reveal the picture. Again, expensive, but at least we knew if the picture was a dud or not. The real instant Polaroids came later — then no peeling was involved.

It wasn’t until the 80s that I got a 35mm camera. I had a new baby and a job as a stringer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Lots of photos of children followed. I took a class and read books, trying to improve my skills. Anyway, I was usually behind the camera.

Now all our children have fancy digital cameras. I have a not-so-fancy one that works well enough for me, but when I need a fantastic photo of a grandchild, our children are ready to supply one.

Recently, I was on the other end of the camera for the Muehl Public Library READ program. I had bid on the READ poster last fall at the annual Wine Event and Silent Auction and won it. Last week, the time had come for Countryside Photographers to take my picture with the inspirational book of my choice.

I decided on Lassie Come-Home (a whole other story) and wanted our dog in the photo. That sounded fun and simple until I started about what to wear. Fortunately,Sunny didn’t have anything to worry about. When I asked for suggestions, my friend Colette said, “Anything you choose will be on the poster forever.” Okay, that freaked me out. I never thought of that.

I became nervous and changed my mind on my outfit maybe 30 times. Eventually, I decided. I had to — Countryside Photographers were on their way.

When Steve and Randy arrived, they asked me what I wanted to do. I left it up to the experts. They looked around our farmyard and said there were all kinds of good places. “Whatever you say,” I repeated. “All I want is to have the book and Sunny in the photo with me.”

After joking around a bit, I relaxed and went with their suggestions. Bob had our camera. I had instructed him to take shots of the process, thinking ahead to this column.

Sunny cooperated pretty well. He sat next to me and sometimes looked at the camera. Eventually, our dog tired of the hubbub and laid down. Sunny wasn’t so easy to move after that.

Now the READ photo has been taken. A poster will soon be created. For many years, I’ll be hanging in the library supporting the program. For me, it’s easier behind the camera, even if it’s one that I wind. READ everyone!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;