Khürt Williams

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Devonte takes a look at me.

“But how about that trip to Japan? That must’ve been pretty cool. I mean you’ve got that new Olympus with you.”

“Yeah,” I reply, looking down at the Olympus Pen FT in my hands. 

“How is it?” he asks, warily.

“Oh, it’s just about perfect for my shooting style and budget. The half-frame format gives me twice as many exposures, the thing’s built a lot like my M2 and feels just as good, and it’s just a great camera all around….”

“…but?” he asks. He knows I’m avoiding something. I think of mentioning the dim viewfinder, but there’s no point in dancing around the subject.

“Well, to be honest, it’s too good.” 

“What do you mean?”

“It’s hard to explain. The Pen’s perfect, or at least it’s everything I want a camera to be. Its design is genius, it’s easy to use, and it’s the most practical film camera I’ve ever used. More than even my most trusted cameras, it makes me want to keep shooting, keep having adventures, keep loving photography. I don’t think I had more fun shooting a camera than I did shooting this thing in Tokyo. I had plans to take it back with me to LA to shoot shows, recording sessions, tours, everything. It was going to be my number one. But then I actually got home, and all of those plans just… vanished.”

Devonte nods. I think he knows where I’m going with this.

“And now whenever I look at the Pen, I start to miss that feeling I had when I shot it, you know? I start reliving that trip all the way down to the last detail, like I’m trying to keep that memory alive somehow. I look through the viewfinder and I’m back in Asakusa in the spring, back in Shinjuku hunting for film, back on a train half-asleep, watching the Tokyo night lights blur past, without all this worry about death and disease and…”

I start to feel the blood rise to my cheeks with the memories, and feel my chest sink beneath the weight of the months that followed. The emergency hospital trips, the tearful phone calls and countless fraught text messages, and the terrifying helplessness that comes under a worldwide quarantine all hit me at once.

“…to be honest, I think that was the last time I really felt happy this year.”