My Zero & I

I was thinking the other day; what’s the 1 piece of equipment that I’ve had AND used the longest? Hands down it’s my Zero Halliburton Case. Cameras? Please. Other cases? Swap them out too often. Len’s? Shattered. Strobes? Smoked! Even tripods have come & gone.

For the most part I use my Zero as my grip & personal case. I’ll have other cases when traveling on shoots, Pelicans, Storm, other Zero’s, with & without bells & whistles. But this one is the constant. It is strong, seemingly indestructible. It has no wheels, no frills, no slick inside compartments.

My Zero has a long history, even before the it was passed on to me by Burt Glinn, the famous Magnum photographer. He owned it until he gave it to me in the early 90’s. I was Burt’s assistant back then and I was thrilled to have this beauty, it had great karma! It was what photography was all about in those days. Rugged, well traveled, standing the test of time and tatted with great stickers from the Bangkok Oriental Hotel, the Savoy, Pan Am, TWA and on & on. It was flat out romantic, nay pure sex! It made a statement, and it had and has one hell of a great patina that keeps getting better!

Burt had this case when Castro came down from the hills to Havana on that fateful day in January 1959. Enough said….well almost.

The Zero weighs in at a mere 7.8 lbs’s, it’s a feather. When it gets a dent I bang it back out. Or not. It’s fallen off a river boat in the Amazon River near Manaus, fully loaded. But I dove for it, at night, and rescued it before it sunk. Then my translator/fixer did the same thing for me….before I sunk! It’s been to about 57 countries with me, and countless others with Burt. It has been around the world many times. When it needs a cleaning, I throw it a hotel shower.

In Morocco somebody pried the locks and ripped me off, no worries, I just had somebody in the medina fabricate new ones and bolted them on, plus added a U bolt that I could attach a padlock….we missed nary a beat. Contents were all insured.

Amazingly enough, the handle & the hinges are the 2 movable parts on the Zero that have been in tact and unaffected by it all.

There are many bell caps at hotels that I stay in often enough that do NOT recognize me. But they DO recognize my Zero. Same with ticketing agents at a few airports that I’m always trolling through. It has even been my proverbial puppy-on-a-walk. Translation: I have had women start up conversations with me, beginning with chit chat about my Zero. It’s hard not to notice it. Which can be good AND bad.

When ticketing agents see it, they automatically slap one of their “Heavy” stickers on it. I don’t know why, this one is never near the 50 lbs. limit. I guess that they just figure that my Zero means business.

As I wait for my Zero at any given baggage arrival, I know that it’s on the carousel before I see it because it comes flying down the chute with a metallic slide & huge crash. Heads turn, people startle and babies cry when it hits. Within the turmoil, I feel relief that my bag made it through another round of airline roulette.

I climb on it to shoot if I’m in need of a quick lift. I use it as my hotel safe. I have sat on it in vehicles in Afghanistan thinking that it might protect me from an explosion below. It gets me in & out of customs pretty quickly because agents love to talk about it. I’ve used it to beat a door open in Mississippi in an old abandoned location that we were shooting in, and in West Texas we even caught & kept a little Rattle Snake in it long enough to keep it, and us out of harms way while we shot. Then we let it slither back into the desert.

Dan Rather jokingly told some hotel personnel in Tennessee not to scratch it as they were moving our luggage to the crew van. They thought that he was serious. He usually is.

Every few years I’ll try out other cases thinking that I can do better. But for a myriad of reasons they never seem to stick and are relegated to the equipment room and only get to travel on selected journeys.

As I write this somewhere over the Rockies it dawns on me; I’m sure that somehow, someway, as I talk about my Zero, my therapist could make a case that I am in fact, really talking about myself:)

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