The first recollection from childhood are slides from family vacations played at nights time over one of the walls in our home in Poland.
Playing with my dad's Zorki camera as a kid had a profound influence on me. It had imprinted in my memory desire for photography that revealed itself 20 years later.
My dad used to have a lot of photo gear including some ZLR Yashicas, that at the time were affordable alternatives for medium format photography available to somebody living in Eastern Europe. He used to develop some of his photos by himself. My memories are foggy but I remember him waiting till dusk and converting whole apartment into darkroom by plugging all windows with black cloth, turning on red lighting and working on enlarger.
My dad used to give me Zorki (it's like Russian Leica) without the film loaded to play with...the camera must have been broken, right? Otherwise he would not allow me to touch it. I am not sure but I was probably 6 or 8 a that time. The camera had silver brass top and bottom plate with black plasticky material around grip pretending to be a leather. It was rangefinder camera. It was marvelous. I used to open the camera and tinker around its guts for hours. Imagine little boy given device so precise and mechanically complex. It was mind boggling. Fascinated by the shutter mechanism I was opening and closing aperture and re-cocking shutter just to "take a picture" of the view from our living room on nonexistent film. I remember to set the camera into self-timer mode with the front lever. Then I pressed the release button on the lever and I was listening, enchanted while the timer was buzzing for couple of seconds to hear shutter zipping finished with firmly click of re-cocking mechanism in the end.
Growing up as a teenager I don't think I have ever used camera again. I just totally lost interest and forgot about photography. It was not until my twenties when I rediscovered my childhood fascination for photography.
My first digital camera was Minolta 7hi. It was small bridge camera with horrible quality of photos that costed me all my savings at that time. It was slow, plasticky and horrible but I truly loved it. Even ISO 100 photos were most of the time barely usable. You can get much better photos with smartphones nowadays. Two years latter I was able to save extra money working in US as a student on J1 visa program and buy my first, serious DSLR - Nikon D70. Jumping from Minolta to Nikon with kit lens 18-70mm was eye opener. It was such an unbelievable step-up in quality of photos that I was mesmerized. By today standards D70 is rather mediocre camera. I'd argue, however, that at ISO below 400 I can still challenge most of modern cameras and get great results even in print.
For the past ten years I've been using a lot of different cameras. Mainly Nikons like D200, D2Hs, D3000, D7000 and D700 and most recently tried D800e.
However I'm on a journey of finding my ultimate photograpic tool. In the last three years, as an alternative to DSLR, I've tried:
My quest is still not done. I'm still not satisfied...maybe I never will be.