29/52: First Camera

Photography was one of my earliest artistic influences.


Each week for a year, I’m designing a shirt and releasing it on my Threadless store. This is the design for week 29.


I was a photographer long before I was a designer. My father loved cameras and had a selection of Minolta 35mm cameras, lens, flashes and other accessories. They were often used for family pictures after church and vacation photos. My parents kept tons of photo albums around and so I grew up with photography everywhere.

When I started high school, I took pictures for the yearbook and newspaper. I signed up for a class at Midlands Tech on photography and darkroom skills. I worked in USC Aiken’s darkroom some — my high school didn’t have it’s own darkroom — but I eventually got an enlarger at home and printed my own images in the bathroom.

I used my dad’s cameras for most of this, but at some point during my senior year, I picked up a used Minolta X-700 to be my camera. I shot a bunch of high school sports and needed a long, but affordable lens so I used an old 200mm f3.5 lens that we purchased from KEH in Atlanta. I borrowed one of my dad’s motor drives and that combo was my primary camera set up for a number of years. When I went to college at the University of South Carolina, I worked in student media and shot football and basketball games with it. I also worked a bunch of concerts with that camera — Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Gin Blossoms, Green Day and more. 

I discovered design when I was in college, but photography was my first love and one of my oldest artistic influences. I’m glad I got the experience of shooting on film and working in a darkroom. I’m grateful that I had to learn to shoot with manual focus before autofocus happened. I’m thankful for autofocus and digital photography, but I feel like I understand photography better because I had to do things manually.

I discovered design when I was in college, but photography was my first love and one of my oldest artistic influences.

At some point, I switched to Canon autofocus when I purchased an A2E with “eye-control focus.” And then to digital SLRs when my oldest child was born. I gave my old Minolta gear to my dad who collected cameras and he had them displayed with other old cameras he had used or found at yard sales. A couple of years ago, he was cleaning out some things and asked if I wanted some of his old camera gear. I took several of the old Minolta bodies, including my X-700, and displayed them in my office — next to my darkroom clock.

I wanted to create a shirt based on my love of photography. And that X-700 kept popping in my head. So I recreated it, taking some editorial license. It’s one of the most detailed vector illustrations I’ve ever done and I had a blast with it.

You can purchase “First Camera” from my Threadless store in a range of colors.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.