Terry Manning

Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed unique perspective


There’s a lot that could be said about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Lord knows a lot already has been said, pro and con.

Some look at the British monarchy as if it is a real-life fairy tale, full of wise kings, benevolent queens, noble princes and beautiful princesses. Not to mention the towering castles or gilded horse-drawn carriages.

That dream dies hard when you see the pinched features and crooked teeth of the actual royal family.

Others hate the idea of biological dynasties, the notion that someone — anyone — deserves to be treated better because they happen to be born into the right family. This group overlaps with those who point to the tainted history of British colonialism and the devastation wrought upon many lands populated by people of color.

The death of the queen leaves me feeling unaffected, mostly. America no longer is a British colony. Her face isn’t on any of the currency I have or wish I had in my wallet. I have neither plans nor the desire to stand outside Buckingham Palace with a handkerchief pressed to my face to catch tears as her funeral procession passes.

The first thing I thought was, I wonder what will happen to her cameras? Will we ever get to see the photos she took?

If you type “Queen Elizabeth camera” into any search engine, it may surprise you to see how many images are returned. In many of them she is seen using a Leica M3 35mm film camera. Leicaphiles consider the M3 the best of the lauded German camera maker’s bodies; devotees pat themselves on the back for pointing out the queen’s being drawn to Leica’s “king.”

In later images she is seen using a Leica M6. Not only is it a more modern film body, but hers sports a snazzy personalized engraving from when the camera was presented to her in 1986. I never cease to be amazed at how the elite get things for free. I’m not sure how I would act if I were given a Leica. In case the universe is listening, I’d be more than happy to receive a Leica Q or Q2; I’d willingly “settle” for an M10 and 28mm prime lens.

In case I haven’t been obvious enough, I share the queen’s passion for photography. I think mine came from my father. He was the unofficial documentarian for our family and attended most functions with a camera around his neck.

He started out with simple Kodak bodies and progressed to better built, weightier cameras made in Japan before succumbing to the lures of autofocus, motorized zooms and mechanized film advance. My father had just dipped his toes into digital photography with entry-level bodies from Canon and Sony before he passed.

He and I marveled at the sound of my digital Canon 30D firing off five frames per second. For context, the newest digital bodies from Canon can shoot up to 30 frames per second. That’s faster than the rate needed for motion pictures.

My first “real” camera was my father’s Canonet 28. It’s a lower priced alternative to the more coveted Canonet bodies, but its 40mm f2.8 lens was good enough for me to take on our senior class trip. I felt pretty good when the advisor of the school’s photo club asked me about the camera when I showed him some of the photos I’d taken.

I followed my dad’s lead from that camera to a Canon SLR and then a series of point-and-shoots, including an Olympus Stylus Epic I haven’t used in years. I jumped into digital in 1999 with the Olympus D-340R. I saved for months to buy that camera when it went on sale at the local Circuit City. Its whopping 1.3-megapixel resolution thrilled me.

I’m sure being able to capture her life thrilled Queen Elizabeth II even more. She had an exclusive angle on the world for more than 75 years.

The Daily Express published an interview with a “royal insider” who said she carried her photo albums with her wherever she traveled domestically. As much as I would love to see those photos, maybe it’s for the best if she gets to take her precious albums with her one last time.

Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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