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Vintage Photo: Girl and Cat Meet Camera, October 1983

Kublai rolls around in the sun in one of my first photos, ever.
Kublai rolls around in the sun as I take the first two rolls of film with my new camera.

This photo is from the very first day I set up and used my brand new fully manual Pentax K1000, my first camera ever, in October 1983, as I wandered around with it pressed against my face getting accustomed to seeing the world with one eye closed. And in black and white.


Yes, it’s a surprising anniversary. I hadn’t realized it was 40 years.

Apparently, I shot two rolls of 24-exposure film that day. Even then, I couldn’t keep it to just a few shots, especially when it came to my cats.

And it was apparently October 8, 1923. I don’t have all the prints from that roll—I meticulously numbered them and even took notes, so I can see which numbers are missing—but I still have the negatives, all in good shape. After looking through them, I decided that very soon I would do a post on those two rolls on my photo blog, Today. I may or may not have the roll reprinted before I create the post; it’s easy enough to have done locally and the processor automatically provides scans of the images as part of the cost of processing. I will share the post here when I do.

I only shot black and white at first, probably because I thought it would help me learn composition a little easier, and I think it did. And Kublai was black anyway…here he is, my very first black cat having a good roll in the sunpuddle from the sidelight of the door. There was no zoom on the camera or I’d have zoomed in on him. I like the simple collection of light and dark shapes and the slight pattern of the rug, but I like the atmosphere of the whole room too, all very simple shapes and geometry which makes Kublai’s little shape on the floor stand out even more, and the bar of light seeming to point right to him. It’s as if all of it exists to provide a backdrop for Kublai.

My first camera

I had never owned my own camera. Growing up my sister had a camera and I remember my mother taking some photos but I think she may have borrowed my sister’s camera, I don’t remember there being one in the house. I probably would have wanted one, but in those days, at least in my family, that was something you waited for someone to get for you, and no one ever did.

I remember encountering some late 70s point-and-shoot cameras, a Polaroid and others, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I had the chance to learn to use a camera, including developing film and printing images, when I joined the campus newspaper staff that first semester, autumn 1979. I actually used it quite a bit for projects in my junior and senior years as I worked through some independent study programs my professors had designed for me. One of those was following a production of The Lion in Winter with a modern twist from the first meetings of the theater group to decide what to produce that year through to the final performance, photographing the whole process.

I signed out the camera each time I needed it and returned it immediately after so I didn’t get the experience of having a camera with me all the time until later. I don’t remember what brand or make it was, but I’m pretty sure it was a Pentax K1000 like the camera I purchased in 1983 because it felt so familiar when I brought it home and used it for the first time. From that first roll containing cats, interior scenes and nature, I am still photographing the same things. And I still have that camera, and I still use it to shoot black and white film. There’s nothing like authentic black and white film.

More from the same era

My roommate and I lived in that apartment for about six months but I managed to capture lots of memories from it.

Sometime over the autumn and winter, Bootsie, inside and out—they were all indoor-outdoor cats at that time, but just for a few months longer. The front porch railing was one of her favorite places. She rarely left the front porch, but when I let her out would hop up on a section of railing, walk around for a bit, have a bath, look at the view, then have a nap. She was 13 years old, a long life for a cat in those days, and she still had two years to enjoy. Below, I swear she knows what she’s doing as she sits in one spot on the table and gives me this view and that, finding another posture and catitude, like a purrfessional.

Some artsy shots of Bootsie from 1983.
Some artsy shots of Bootsie from 1983.

Just before Christmas, Kublai, “An Old Memory.” I offer this as a holiday card, and have used it myself. It was shot with black and white film but processed in a color processing machine which gives it the sepia appearance.

From the following spring, I think, Kublai as “A Sunny Room”. Look at those long hind legs! That always fascinated me about him. He was about two years old here. It’s interesting to go back to your beginnings with something like this, to see where you are now. I also offer this image as a card.

A Sunny Room

And from late that year or the following January, a photo I made into a painting as my first watercolor, “Sunbath.” The original painting and prints are available.

watercolor of cat having bath
“Sunbath”, watercolor, 1993, 21″ x 14 • Bernadette E. Kazmarski

And then later that spring, “Window Silhouette.”

Silhouette at the Window Votive Lamps
Silhouette at the Window Votive Lamps

Photos From the Archives and Vintage Photos

Photos pulled “From the Archives” were taken by one or another digital camera of mine between 2002 and, well, yesterday, but usually they are older than that, and I had never had the chance to feature them. Vintage Photos are from my film archives back to 1983 when I purchased my Pentax K-1000 camera. They’re a fun way to “introduce” other members of my feline family who came and went before I began blogging, and to illustrate my feline family in general from days gone by.


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A Sunny Room

This photograph was taken in 1983, when I first got my camera and began photographing with black and white film. Kublai, the kitty who rescued me in college and truly began my life as an animal artist, was only about two years old. Read more and purchase.


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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2 thoughts on “Vintage Photo: Girl and Cat Meet Camera, October 1983

  • Yes, cameras are wonderful things. I too had a camera when I was younger and film was the only option. You had to choose carefully the pictures you made. I must confess I like digital much better!

    • Me too, especially environmentally and the cost of developing and printing film!! But I’m glad I didn’t wait until digital came along. And I still love black and white film.


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