Sometimes it is really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I am often making photographs with equipment that is well over six decades old. This is particularly true whenever I make photographs with my Rolleiflex TLR. There was a point in time when I looked up the serial number of my Rolleiflex and learned that it was manufactured in 1955. It isn't the oldest camera I own, but it is probably the camera I use most often that fits into bracket of a whole other era.
That is so remarkable when you think about it. That means my Rolleiflex is older than the house I live it. It is older than my car. When the Rolleiflex used to make this photograph was rolling off the factory line Rebel Without A Cause was a Hollywood box office hit and the very first riot at an Elvis Presley concert was taking place. People still drove Studebaker cars, most homes didn't have a microwave, and the color television hadn't yet hit the mainstream. How many people can say they are still making use out of a tool built so long ago? How many tools that old can still hold their value and performance next equipment of a modern age?
I wonder how many photographs were made before the camera made it to my hands. Family snapshots maybe? Photographs of historical events? According to the serial number the camera was first sold at a dealer in England, which means somehow over the decades it traveled from hand to hand, owner to owner, and in the end made it to craigslist where it was purchased by me in Oregon. At some point someone etched the numbers 9872 into the bottom very crudely. I'm guessing the camera was part of some commercial lab or publication were people could check out cameras and the number was to keep track of inventory. But maybe not?
I've probably run at least a few hundred rolls of film through my Rolleiflex TLR. With any luck I'll photograph at least a few hundred more. Once I'm done I wonder where the camera will end up next.