Eastman Kodak Company has two blogs: A Thousand Words is written "by, and about, everyday employees who share a passion for photographic storytelling," in the words of Kodak's David Kassnoff. Its companion blog, A Thousand Nerds, "shares insights into the technical aspects of making photography an enjoyable experience."
A recent post by Thomas Hoehn, about autochromes, on 1000words.com reminded me of one of my major missed opportunities on a path not followed, that of photo collecting. A neighbor of mine in an apartment building in Washington, D.C., found out that I taught photography and asked me to take a look a few old color photographs she had inherited. When I arrived at her apartment she took an old box out of a drawer, and darned if numerous layers of brittle tissue didn't part to reveal three genuine Lumière Frères autochromes, on glass, from about 1910. All three were just marvelous pictures, if memory serves. Especially the smallest one, which was about 3" x 4", of a lovely girl in period dress in a shaft of sunlight.
Just by being enthusiastic and appreciative, I came very close to talking her out of it. She had virtually offered to let me have it when it seemed to occur to us both, simultaneously, that I was really nothing but a stranger to her and she had no reason whatsoever to part with her heirloom on my account. I'm quite sure I could have walked out of there with that treasure in my possession if I'd been more aggressive about it, but I couldn't see the fairness in it, and we mutually backed away from the undone deal.
The ultimate purpose of collecting, of course, is delectation, and if I'd "scored" that rare autochrome on that occasion, at least I could have looked at it many more times over the years. I'd love to see it again today. I have a great memory for visuals, but enough time makes even the most vivid impression grow dim (one good reason why we make photographs). Still, it was a pleasure to see it once. Autochromes are uniquely lovely, delicate little things.