A camera is seldom present at the decisive moment. The best moments somehow elude photography.
Yoshihisa Maitani - the lead camera designer at Olympus during its heyday - once encountered a shocking scene: a truck busting into flames in the parking lot of a bathhouse in the early morning in Suwa, Japan. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but of course nobody takes their camera to the bath, so unfortunately I missed the opportunity.” The moment gracefully slipped away and only memory and imagination remain. The impression of flaming truck inspired Maitani to design a better camera. More portable and more durable without compromising image quality. A perfect balance of mechanics and optics: The Olympus XA series.
My grandmother gave my mother an Olympus XA as a birthday gift when I was still an infant. “The lens is the soul of the camera”. The photographic record of my childhood passed through that camera’s lens. A lens carefully selected by Maitani.
I used that camera to forge UFO sightings, to counterfeit trading cards, to document lego cities, and to capture skateboard tricks. My mother used that camera to relentlessly capture moments of my young life. The flow of play interrupted by the camera’s need for a moment for repose. Sometimes a camera is present when it is not wanted.
We now live in an era where cameras are ubiquitious. Photographs are cheap to take and easy to share. Photographs gush forth into a ocean of banality. Maitani's flaming truck in Suwa would have been but a drop in the ocean.