I’m in a shopping mood, desperately trying to do my part for American commerce. This feeling comes upon me seasonally, like the primordial smell of early fall. The summer drought is over and a hallelujah revival is at hand. I’m feeling very productive, which translates on occasion in true capitalist fashion for desiring a very few beautiful objects.
Which gets me to the “heart of the matter”, a matter I have ruminated over for the abundance of the many years I’ve been on this earth. I am primarily a black and white photographer, who tends to like to see things in black and white, right or wrong, rich or poor, correct or incorrect, and even appropriate or inappropriate. The dilemma I’m about to describe to you although, may be ambiguous or have extenuating circumstances to you, reader, to me, there is no deviation or fluctuation. There is only one true way.
To truly understand the magnitude of this problem, I am forced to relate two stories that best illustrate the problem, both in life and most especially in pictures. Both occurred within months of each other.
The first goes back to a lunch with an advertising friend of mine. I do not remember what preceded the conversation, but what I do remember is this particular discussion.
On occasion some people have commented on my watch. It is a beautiful, classic, gold time piece. I purchased it well over twenty-five years ago but like most things I own or do, one could not tell by it’s look or condition whether I purchased it yesterday or many years ago. It is made of 21 carat gold with a delicate tiny sapphire on the knob. It has been on my hand so many years, it almost feels molded to my body. It’s time keeping is immaculate and it has kept me at the right place, at the right time for many years.
I’m drifting, so now back to the story. My friend glanced at my watch and asked me quite inappropriately but very typical of all of us, how much my watch cost. I told him and he pointed to his $29.95 special on his wrist and said his watch probably kept better time than mine (which was probably true), looked really nice (also true), and saved him an enormous amount of money.
This conversation quickly led us down the road of aesthetics and ended at some outpost I’m about to describe.
He said (before the years of exact copies of everything a woman wears) that if I could buy the exact same watch that looked exactly the same, made out of slightly different materials (12 carat gold, for example) and upon close examination it would look and feel identical but was half the price, would I buy it?
Without hesitation and without equivocation I said “Absolutely not. I want the original and even if no one can tell the difference, I want the best.”
Now you may think this is a product of circumstance of wealth, or upbringing, but this watch was purchased when I had very little money and had to save for years to pay for it. Even then I didn’t want anyone’s copy.
So going back and forth with him, I told him a story that had recently occurred to me.
Upon my mother’s death, we were left with all her jewelry, the crown piece was a pear shaped diamond ring that I was surprised she had the strength to carry on her finger.
It was very large and very noticeable to anyone that was within half a mile of her.
It was everyone’s assumption that this extravaganza was the feminine paradigm of my father’s wealth. It was her Rolls-Royce.
Along with the rest of the jewelry I was going to sell, I did my due diligence, starting with Tiffany, but eventually landed on the infamous 47th street with an elderly Dutch man. One learns that diamonds are not only forever but that they travel very quickly, and word of this stone had made it’s way up 47th street well in advance of my arrival.
So without boring you with the details, let me cut right to the chase. This fine elderly, ruthless man took out his loop and with a magnified eye the size of a million dollar bill looked very carefully at the ring. My eyes were also getting bigger by the second. My mouth was fantasizing about the steak I was about to have for lunch, when he finally looked up at me, and his eye returned to normal in his socket, and pronounced it’s not FQ.
FQ, FQ, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. I kept thinking of FAO Schwartz and was wondering if he was telling me to go sell the ring in a toy store.
Finally he said, the ring is not First Quality and began to explain. He said my father probably bought the ring around 1960 (he could tell by the setting) and had paid about $20,000. He said at that time my father had a choice. He could have either purchased a much smaller ring of first quality or (as he chose) a much larger ring of lesser quality. To use today’s vernacular. He decided to go for the bling.
So he said, at that point in time (some 25 years after the ring was acquired), if he had purchased an FQ stone, the ring would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but this ring (although worth more than that original $20,000) was not worth a great deal more.
So with this statement my eyes began to focus on only twenty and hundred dollar bills, and I learned another lesson on the path of life.
I’m not interested in copies, reproductions, or second rate anything. I’m interested in the quality of things I purchase, in the life I live and in the pictures and the stories I tell.
Happy shopping to you all.