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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Duprey

TANK | My Gateway Camera and Other Musings | Entry-level Cameras for Parents and Community Art & Darkroom Photography Classes at NCC Art Studio

My gateway camera was a Canon AS-6 Aqua Snappy. I found it in my dad’s nightstand alongside photo albums of his college days, gallon ziplock bags filled with undeveloped disposables, several broken family camcorders, and an old Pentax SLR.

He had purchased the Aqua Snappy in the early 90’s for a Caribbean snorkel, but had never used it, let alone taken it out of the box. It lay forgotten and unopened, with all its pristinely packaged accessories, until that fated day my 15-year-old self decided to snoop around my parent’s room for spare change. At a glance, it took easy to find 35mm film and AAA batteries, had auto exposure, and fixed-focus point-and-shoot appeal. I couldn’t resist. The bonus of such a find was that it could be shot underwater-- a feature which still garners it a cult following with film enthusiasts today.

Self-portrait taken with my TANK, Circa 2009.
Self-portrait taken with my TANK, Circa 2009.

I used that camera with undeniable compulsion for over five years. It became a dear companion on many a teenage adventure-- details of which I will not divulge here. Overtime it earned the affectionate nickname, TANK, for its apparent indestructibility and hefty Tonka looks.


After many rolls of film, it sadly developed a light leak which made for beautiful vignettes, but questionable waterproof-ness. My TANK looked like a toy, was so primitive a child-- or even my mother--could use it, and was ultimately defective; but the moments I captured with it had a certain romanticism about them that was entirely un-replicable. Needless to say, my first shooter defined me as a photographer. The unpredictability of the image quality led me on a quest for the dreamy effects I have sought in my later digital endeavors and in my current client and personal work which you can view HERE.

A very dusty scan of one of my favorite photographs of our early parenthood taken with my TANK.

The decision to move beyond analog picture-making was a purely practical one. I am a luddite at heart and was pretty resistant when it came to switching to digital. All the photos I have of my eldest's babyhood were taken with either my TANK, or my father's aforementioned Pentax. Eventually it was the rising cost of film processing and the incessant need to photograph my babies constantly that led me to purchase my first entry-level DSLR, a Canon Rebel. If photographing your family is something that you are passionate about-- this is my recommended starter-camera. It can be purchased with a kit lens for as little as $300 (possibly cheaper if you buy a pre-loved camera off KEH).

For several years following this foray into digital photography, I continued to bring my film cameras along on vacation. Opting for presence over perfection and intentionality over quantity for the images documenting our trips. Recently, I have been bringing my "big camera" along-- the same Canon 6D Mark III I use for client work.

I'm excited to be getting back into film photography, after a long hiatus. I have thoroughly cleaned my Pentax, crossed my finger while placing a literal Band-Aid over a very suspect looking crack I just discovered, and signed up for a dark room community art class at the NCC Art Studio.

Community art classes, such as the ones held at NCC Art Studio and the Delaware Art Museum, were a life-line for me as a new mom and as an art school drop-out. They gave me something to look forward to when I was in the doldrums of SAHM-dom and they enabled me to continue developing skills that I had learned in college, such as ceramics and metalsmithing. While I consider myself "self-taught" in most disciplines and am very disciplined and independent-minded when it comes to teaching myself how to do or make something, there is nothing that compares to learning alongside a classroom of peers, accepting and giving critique, and opening yourself up to the guidance of an instructor. It's something that I deeply missed from my college days, and was so happy to find it in a community art class setting.


I was already pregnant with Lenore when I began the last semester of my Sophomore year of college-- what would be the extent of my higher education. I just didn't know it yet. As the weeks progressed, I came to realize why I needed a barf cup at every meal in the dining hall-- especially when all the bro's around me were eating breakfast pizza. I also realized that I would have to drop my darkroom photography elective. My photography professor was the only professor that I had shared my pregnancy with-- I had met with her during office hours to ask if it was safe for me to continue taking the class. She had reassured me that my baby would most likely be fine-- she had three children of her own and had continued to work throughout each of her pregnancies-- no harm seemed to have been done. But ultimately, I couldn't stand the smell of the developer chemicals and I felt shame and embarrassment that I couldn't help but projectile vomit into the nearest trashcan at some point during every one of her classes.

The irony isn't lost on me that the subject of this throw-away elective is now my livelihood. I would have never thought that I would be working in a professional capacity as a photographer.

I'm excited to pick up where I left off in the darkroom with a B&W film class hosted by the NCC Art Studio.  

Tonight is my first class (2/13/2024). I plan on updating this article as it progresses with images and reflections. Stay Tuned!

horseshoe crab
One of the only prints I made during that 2011 darkroom photography class I dropped when I found out I was pregnant with Lenore.

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