The Brothers Of Bennett Avenue

We didn't choose the thug life, the thug life chose us.

Long before I picked up my first point-and-shoot camera, Mom was the token pointer (and shooter) of our family. I was her primary subject, and when my brother, Alex, came along—or Sasha, as I had affectionately named him one night while our parents debated names like John, Paul, Ringo, or Eugene, and whatever other simpleton name I had disagreed with around the age of six—he became my co-star in Mom’s Hollywood. We had one job: to grow up in America. Mom’s duty was to document our expressions: the awe of Christmas, the terror of Kindergarten, for we were two boys in the land of morning cartoons on Saturday, Halloween, and in my case, McDonald’s.

McLoving It!
McLoving It Again!

We pose, Mom takes our pictures.

La Famila

New York is our kingdom. Lady Liberty looks over our shoulders.

Dad’s finger is an inch from covering the lens, suffice to say Mom does not ask him to take too many photos.

La Familia Part Deux

Between my two composers, Mom has the eye for composition.

We would scrub the floors with kitchen sponges because the vacuum was the one American product my mother didn’t trust. The point-and-shoot camera, however, she did trust. The odd pharmacy processed our pictures, and Mom filed them away into our plethora of family albums.
I don’t remember the number of point-and-shoots Mom went through in our run-and-gun years. Life was difficult enough for post-Cold War Russian-Americans in Bill Clinton’s America. Between supporting two wild, imaginative children on the salaries of two musicians—less Celine Dion, more so Wes Montgomery and Claude Debussy—Mom had little time to learn the ins-and-outs of aperture, lens mounts, or shutter priority. Her priority was ensuring we would be enrolled in the best public schools, for free.
How many first-year immigrants run triathlons, you ask? Probably not many; all are too busy making ends meet. My parents, however, met more than enough ends for me to tie into stories: Dad driving his first car with the emergency brake on, foot floored on the gas; Mom jumping over turnstiles with piles of music books she had purchased before being pulled over by an officer and ticketed.

The Riabovs have no time to learn about SLRs, we are too busy studying the American Dream.

So, I continue Mom’s tradition. I earn my first wages at the photography darkroom at NYU before working as the studio and copy work photographer for painter Ran Ortner. I have time to learn the aspects of photography Mom does not have time for; she works full-time, so I study. It is the familiar immigrant handshake between parents and children. I would ignore point-and-shoots as plain-Jane, too-straightforward boxes of plastic, till one ends up on my desk earlier this month.
Minolta AF-Sv
Minolta AF-Sv
… also known as “The Talker,” manufactured by Minolta starting in 1984. The AF-Sv 35mm film camera also has an inspired user aid in the form of an electronic that speaks three warnings for missing film, idle flash, and long image subject distance for flash photos.
I load it with Pro Image 100, an inexpensive, color-negative film produced by Kodak, in-between Ektar (punchy saturation) & Portra (accurate skin tones). It is known for its high color saturation and accurate skin tones, your solid (and cost-effective) choice for portraits and social settings.

This film is perfect for the sunshine.

False Creek.
False Creek, Vancouver

I take pictures of my new country, Canada, as mom took pictures of America. (I still call the USA "America," as that's where we were told the yellow brick road ended.)

Nicola Street, West End.
Strawberry Point, Lillooet Lake

Spring is here, as are bursts of light (on occasion) that beckon me to explore the great outdoors. I venture out to English Bay, rent an EVO and embark on a drive up to Strawberry, Point, Lilloet Lake, the furthest yet I’ve driven North. I snap pictures without needing to focus or adjust the shutter speed, capturing moments as my mom did: despite the years (and distance): Mom is in St. Petersburg, Russia, as is Dad. We stay connected through yet another product of America: WhatsApp.

Mom has finally learned how to video chat. I ask her if she still takes pictures.

"Boreńka, I take pictures on my smartphone now, I don't use camera. When will you call me?"

Hello Western Hemisphere!

As I contemplate the possibility of having children in the future, despite the wars, Robots, and widespread human indecency, I am drawn to the idea of using the point-and-shoot camera to capture our family memories. There is something inherently tactile about the simplicity of these cameras—the ease of use, the straightforward mechanics, and the joy of simple electronics.

Mom’s in love with her first Smartphone. Of course, there will undoubtedly be special occasions that call for more sophisticated equipment: the prestigious Nikon F2 SLR to snap portraits of my little rebels—to whom I will do my best to teach manners and instill common sense—or perhaps I will indulge in medium format photography to document birthday portraits, year by year. And for family adventures to places such as Altai (birthplace of my grandmother), the infinite version of the X100VI would be an invaluable companion. If I can afford it, the Nikon Zf?
As my family story unfolds from St. Petersburg – New York – Vancouver, I will amass my collection of photographs with my new point-and shoot—an archive of love, laughter, and life—that I will arrange in albums.
And if the Minolta AF-Sv kicks the bucket, I will find another instrument of simple electronic magic and fire away.

Boris Riabov

Thanks For Reading! Now Grab A Point & Shoot. 🙂

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.