In mid 2009 I bought a Canon 40D, and a Sigma 24-70 2.8 to accompany it, as a reward to myself for scoring well in the GAMSAT (graduate medical school entrance exams, it may be obvious I decided not to pursue that path anymore). That camera/lens combination served me well for concerts, clubs, mountain biking, snowboarding, street and travel photography. In late 2010, I was exploring the abandoned Bokor hill station on the Cambodian coast, when I slipped on my ass, and busted my lens. It was repaired in Hanoi for $40US, and worked for another 3 months, before it died a final death in Bruges, Belgium. The Canon S90 point and shoot I bought in Phnom Penh, as a substitute, continued to serve me until it was stolen in April 2011 on a train in Italy.
Just before the Italy theft, I was working in a hostel in Split, Croatia. Since it had been a few months since I had checked my bank account, I logged on to my internet banking to see how much money I still had. At least, I attempted to log on. 3 times in a row, I forgot my password, and subsequently my netbank was locked. Easy enough solution, I just had to phone the bank and answer my secret question, to reset the password. Of course, I had a job at that time, earning a solid $10/day working at this hostel. So I figured “What’s the rush, I’ll sort this out later. If I leave it locked, it could stop me eating into my savings. Besides, I’m earning enough to live on.”.
August rolls around. After becoming manager of the hostel, I had a falling out with the owner, quit, and went travelling around Western Europe for another month with my girlfriend at the time. I returned to Split, moved into an apartment, and started working for the pub crawl in town (there’s only one true pub crawl in Split: Tower Pub Crawls. Ignore the imposters.). During this time, in true tightass style, I would walk into the town centre, sit against a shop wall, and pull out my netbook to take advantage of the free internet. Concern was developing at my potential lack of future funds, so I started a weeklong attempt at Skyping my bank. After finally getting through, I forgot the answer to my secret question, three times in a row (It was “What was the first country I visited”. Don’t ask, I genuinely thought it was a trick question). As a result of forgetting the secret question, I was then required to fax a copy of my passport to the bank, so they could confirm my identity. Who the hell still uses fax?
“Eh”, I figured. “I still have this pub crawl job, and if I work hard I’ll make enough cash to get me to Turkey, for my flight to Kenya”. Combine this thought with my utter laziness and disdain in searching for someone with a fax machine, and I decided the email could wait. After all, I was living and “working” (read: Paid Partying) in Split, Croatia, renowned for it’s beautiful beaches. I didn’t want to waste good beach weather on a fax machine hunt.
September, 2011. I found myself in Skopje, Macedonia. Having befriended an American photojournalist, I was feeling severe withdrawals from the photography world. In a back alley antique store, I found an old Minolta SRT-101, with 50mm f/1.7 lens, for 40Eur (after bargaining). Ignoring the fact that I hadn’t seen my bank account in over 6 months, and had NO idea how much money I still had, let alone had access too, I made an impulse decision and bought it.
October, 2011. I had successfully hitch hiked to Istanbul. I fell in love with the city and spent 2 weeks exploring it before my flight. The Minolta was well-appreciated here, and I couldn’t imagine my stay without it. Five days before I flew out, I found a mint condition Minolta 28mm 2.8, for $80US in a camera store. By this point, I knew money was low in the 2 accounts I had access to, I mean, it just HAD to be running low, but, with a new friend getting a tattoo that afternoon, and I couldn’t resist the 28mm (Wide-angle super-grainy black-and-white film… I could just picture it). With just enough in my wallet, I chalked the purchase up as 2 less bottles of vodka. Two days later I ran out of money. Regretting my earlier laziness, I emailed my mum, who deposited money in my travel account (Thanks, Mum) and had enough money to get to Nairobi and buy my Kenyan visa.
January, 2012. I had tried numerous times here to fax my passport to the bank. First, the faxes were too faint, then they were too dark, then I faced numerous power outages each time I tried to send a new fax. I finally succeeded in sending a fax the bank would accept. Next problem, the signature on the passport didn’t match the signature on file from when I opened the account at age 13. F*&$. Correspondence with the bank followed, and I was left with the only option of trying to remember/guess every signature I had ever used up to this point. If that failed, I would have to unlock the account in person. Passports endorsed by the Aussie High Commission wouldn’t fly. Using my mother’s legal Power of Attorney wouldn’t fly. No choice but guess the signature or go home. Should be easy, I would only have to fly back to Australia and walk into a branch to do that. Shame all my money was in an account I had no access to, so I’m not sure how they expected me to buy the ticket home. Desperation peaked, with a trip to Zanzibar just 2 days after this new development.
April. It’s been a year since I forgot my internet banking password. It’s been more than a year since I have seen how much money I actually have. For a year I have suffered the frustration of having money, but also having no access to that money. As much as I wish I could say I made it on my own, I unfortunately have some small loans owed to both parents. But, after hassling my father, brother, and grandmother, I have finally had success. My brother made some inquiries, which unfotunately didn’t solve my issues. My father sent me an email saying “You should have dealt with this earlier” or something along those lines. Thanks Dad, I realise this, and am suffering the consequences, but thanks for the constructive suggestion. My nan, however, was able to sweet-talk the lady at her local branch (who apparently recognised my name) into pulling a few strings, and ignoring some red tape, and boom, I was allowed back into my account. Nan called me specifically to hear my reaction when she spelt out the new password, chosen by her (and dedicated to her too, it seemed). Ninety minutes later I bought new lenses for my 40D.
Now, truth be told, I love film photography. Many people over the last 6 months here have heard me explain my choice to shoot film only (partly a lack-of-money decision, but mostly for the feel of it), and I stand by everything I told them. Film is a dying medium which need to live. It’s a beautiful way to make photographs, and can carry so much more emotion, depth, and character in each frame than digital. But, as much as I love film photography, and will continue to shoot and promote it, Kenya has kicked it in the nuts. After losing 7 of my last 15 rolls, mostly due to poor developing, I started to lose willpower to continue with it. After all, how can you continue to dedicate much effort to shooting, when you have an almost 50% chance you will NEVER see the photos. I still have 15 rolls in the fridge, and will shoot them, but developing will have to wait until I’m somewhere with reliable developing services.
Now, after 18 months, my Canon has itself a new Sigma 17-50 2.8, and a beautiful Canon 85 1.8, which after just 30 minutes shooting, I have already justified spending the money on. All the photos are from the children’s centre my mum manages..