Weekly Column by Loretta Redd
The digital age claimed its most recent kill this week, with the announcement that Kodak—a 131 year old corporation—was filing for bankruptcy.
I grew up in a family of amateur photographers, and can still remember delighting as the numbers increased in the little red plastic dot on the back of my Brownie box camera, as I advanced the film.
Of course, there was no way to know if the photo I just snapped was going to be good or not, whether the subject was in focus, or if the lighting was adequate. That required actually waiting for the roll to be finished, then taking it to the camera store or pharmacy where they sent it off to the processing plant. To the younger readers, this must sound ridiculously labor intensive and slow.
But oddly, that was part of the fun…the anticipation of the photos…what would they look like. And if it had taken a long enough time to “use up” the roll of film, being surprised by who and what were in them! “Wow, there’s Aunt Hazel- that must have been taken last Christmas!” We kept shoe boxes full of photos, always pledging to get them into an album by the next year.
In my teens, photography was revolutionized by Polaroid. Point, shoot, and out zips a weird size, blank piece of paper that would ‘develop’ into a picture before your eyes! Of course, you had to get the gooey pink ‘preservative’ stick out of its tube and coat the image, or it would eventually fade and turn brown. The colors were far from true, the process was cumbersome, but as Paul Anka crooned in the Kodak commercials, “These Are the Times of Our Lives.”
It was certainly ‘high tech’ to us, though I secretly missed trying to peel the blistered plastic off of the blown flashbulbs from my Brownie camera flash.
Kodak was destroyed by technology, with the adaptation and advancement of digital photography, which ironically they invented with the 1.3 megapixel sensor. Nowadays, not only can you see immediate results and simply destroy the images deemed not to be worthy, you can shoot hundreds of photographs at a time. And unlike the era when we relied on the ‘laboratory’ to create the best shot, once loaded onto computer screens, today we can Photoshop ourselves into Glamour magazine perfection.
Of course, we have miniaturized the camera to the point that digital phones take photographs in resolution and color that once required a five pound, thousand dollar Hasselblad camera and hours in the ‘dark room.’
We live in the era of instant results… there is no more waiting, not need for anticipation. We can store hundreds of photos on our cell phones to the delight or complete boredom of our friends and family, much like our parents used home movies to torture houseguests.
And with every new advancement in technology, we become more self-reliant. We now can take our photos with digital cameras, use the SIM card or connect to our computers for viewing and enhancing…and then, we can purchase a printer to print our photos right in our own homes. Of course, the printer costs a few hundred dollars, the ink cartridges seem to always run out or have dried out, and the blank paper is never the size you need to fit the frame you bought, but hey, that’s modern convenience!
Hopefully, you didn’t use that same computer recently to day-trade in Kodak stock…and I’m willing to bet that even with the new ways of capturing images, there are no recent photos on your mantle. Who has the time or patience for such reflection and nostalgia?