It was after the 1964 Farnborough Air Show that I decided not to a pursue a career as a professional photographer. I was seven in 1964 and had been given a second-hand Box Brownie camera by my parents.
A Brownie camera was a cumbersome device which was operated nearer your groin than your eye. Unlike cameras of today, where the resulting images are immediate, in 1964 you were beholden to the local chemists (to the tune of about three weeks) on the outcome.
In 1964 a selfie wasn’t a photograph, it was something your parents warned you would eventually make you go blind.
By 1964 the Box Brownie had been around for sixty-four years, so wasn’t exactly in the forefront of camera technology. Lord Lichfield used his to prop up a wonky table.
At the time of the 1964 Farnborough Air Show I was invited by a fellow classmate at St Mary’s Balham, who lived in Streathbourne Road in Tooting, to join him and his parents in his parents’ Austin Cambridge to travel to the Hampshire village which hosted, every other year since 1948, the world famous air show. Packed off with Kwells and thermos flask full of chicken soup, I was allowed to take my camera.
If George Eastman had known how I was about to crucify his industry, he’d have never have invented Kodak.
We travelled to Farnborough; I took my full reel of twenty-four pictures; I wound it on after every shot; I never exposed the film; I’d not covered the lens with my hand (or penis – not that I was doing this naked); I’d carefully removed the film; proudly presented the film to the man in Boot’s on Balham High Road and prepared to wait the mandatory three weeks (waiting for my O-level results was not as excruciating – although the results equally horrific).
At the end of the three weeks I walked from my flats the other side of Balham Station to Boot’s on the High Road to collect and revel in the fruits of my labours of recording one the world’s greatest air shows.
I paid my money and looked at my twenty-four individual efforts. I saw twenty-four minuscule black specks on a grey background. My attempts to capture the beauty of the then new VC10 had failed miserably. I’d have had a better definition on a photograph if I’d having been standing in Farnborough photographing an ant walking along Streathbourne Road.
A year later, David Bailey released his iconic picture of the Krays; it was this harsh reality which decreed I was never going to make it as a professional photographer. I have never picked up a camera since and am only grateful I never watched Tony Curtis’s portrayal of Houdini.