Cryptic Quito Camera Club


October 1988 -- Dateline Sacramento -- Bulletin from the
Cryptic Quito Camera Club
(CSUS Art Department: Camera Collection Central)

Busted cameras. Chances are you have one. And you must know two or three other people who have busted cameras. But what to do with them? Now there is a solution! Join the CRYPTIC QUITO CAMERA CLUB!

With one simple act, you can perform a gesture of creative generosity while--at the same time--resolving one of the most perplexing modern problems: how to transcend the attachment to dysfunctional (busted) high-tech equipment. Donate it to the Busted Camera Collection Drive and become a Charter Member of the CRYPTIC QUITO CAMERA CLUB today!

Let's face it: cameras are expensive. And those of us who appreciate good design, or who become fascinated with the delicate intricacy of precision technology, just cannot bear to throw away something like a camera. That would seem so illogical. And so it is, despite all the conditioning from the throw-away society in which we live.

"There must be some good left in it," we say to ourselves. "Can't we get some use out of the lens at least, or find some practical purpose for the black body, for the shutter mechanism, or for the beautiful little chromium-plated knurled nuts?"

But the voice of stern logic comes back to us from the guy in the camera shop: "Sure, but it would cost you more that it is worth. Much more. You would be a lot better off just to buy a new camera, and even then you would wind up by saving money." We say to ourselves, "Sure. That guy's selling cameras, so what's he supposed to say?"

And so we think about taking off the knurled nuts at least and putting them in our pocket. A week later they are still there, and we think about lining them up on the window sill in front of the kitchen sink, just to look at them from time to time. But then a roommate knocks one of them into a dirty lasagne pan that is soaking, and we must confront the frustrating fact that our old camera will--like Humpty Dumpty-- never be be put back together again. Having spent a lot of money on something that no longer works, we hang on to our embarrassing secret.

Ladies and gentlemen, that was before the CRYPTIC QUITO CAMERA CLUB. Your donation should entitle you to deduct the fair value of the camera from your taxes, and to become a Charter Member in the club. You can join today by bringing in your camera-that-doesn't-work to the Art Department offices at California State University, Sacramento. Here's the plan:

We will package all the busted cameras for shipping to Miami, the Port of Entry for Quito, Ecuador. From there, the U. S. State Department has generously offered to cover the cost of air transport to the Universidad Central del Ecuador, in the capital city of Quito, located on the equator, but high in the Andes Mountains.

The Faculty of Fine Arts at the Central University of Ecuador has a newly-created Department of Photography, with many promising students. We in the Art Department at CSUS would like to provide help and encouragement to our Latin American colleagues and fellow foto fans. But there are problems. This is the situation in Ecuador, as described in a recent letter from Rafael Herrera Gil, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and Judy de Bustamante from the Department of Photography:

The economic crisis our country is subject to at this time has made it very difficult for us to obtain equipment for our neww department. We have managed to get equipment for two darkroom stations, and we have a few old cameras. We are writing to inquire if your institution has any obsolete equipment or excess inventory it doesn't need any more. We can make very good use of your tax-deductible donations.

Our very resourceful repairmen can make useable those items which may be too expensive to repair in the United States. At this time we especially need cameras and lenses, of any format, and enlargers. We would also welcome film and paper, even if its expiration date has passed.

In September, our Art Department welcomed as Guest Lecturer the distinguished Latin American photographer, Jaime Pereira, whose work will soon be featured in a one-man exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University. Although originally from Chile, Pereira has recently lived in Ecuador, and has worked with the people at Quito.

While on campus at CSUS, Pereira helped conceive the idea of the CRYPTIC QUITO CAMERA CLUB together with Dr. Kurt von Meier, Professor of Art at CSUS and new Chairman of the Art Department. The project also received enthusiastic support from Professor Roger Vail, the CSUS Art Department's own widely-acclaimed photographer. Students and other faculty members began to bring in busted cameras.

The project began to roll--or, as we might say--the idea began to click. It seemed to be a good way to let go of our secret (cryptic) disappointments with high-tech-on-the-fritz, to clean out the closet, to get a tax-deduction, to do some good for Art, and to help out some dedicated people who don't quite enjoy the luxuries of our relatively affluent California lifestyle.

We are presently designing CRYPTIC QUITO CAMERA CLUB membership cards. You won't want to leave home without one. Pass the word around, too: tell a friend. And bring in your old, outdated or banged-up photo stuff to the office of the Art Department on the CSUS campus. Be sure to print your name and address, attaching it with scotch tape or masking tape to your contribution, so that you may receive your Charter Member's card when they become available. This card will guarantee you free admission to the planned exhibition (in Sacramento) of photographs taken by future Ecuadorian art students with their resurrected equipment. And it's bound to identify you as a celebrity the next time you're in Quito. 

Kurt von Meier