The Coast News Group
Columns Small Talk

When photos were still on film

I know bankruptcy doesn’t really mean that a company is going away forever anymore, but it always means things have changed and will never be as they were.I recall my malaise when Frederick’s of Hollywood filed in 2000. Trashy women everywhere just panicked and I wondered how hard it was going to be to get a decent pair of black fishnet stockings afterward. Rest easy. They are still in business.

I also felt a special twinge when I heard about Kodak going Chapter 11 this year. It is the end of a part of my youth. Basically, so much changed so fast in the photography world, but I remember the days of Kodak and Polaroid like my kids will remember Apple and Microsoft. They were the technological superstars and produced the coolest gadgets of my childhood.

I remember being amazed at the first Polaroid instamatic cameras. They smelled funny but getting your photo immediately was astounding! My sweetest memory is of my oh-so-cool Polaroid Swinger camera. I got it just before high school graduation in 1967. It was the highlight of a class beach trip to La Jolla Shores with our foreign exchange student, just before his return to Venezuela. We must have taken dozens of photos as part of that fond farewell. My Swinger gave me some serious cache.

I can’t say I miss wrestling with rolls of film, figuring f stops, guessing distance and such, but in my salad days as a reporter, it made me feel very official. I went nowhere without my hefty Pentax and several rolls of film. I took classes and actually had a short-lived stint as a reasonably clever news photographer. Those skills have sunk to some far recess of my brain now, replaced with trying to figure out which button turns the flash off on my digital darling.

It has been most interesting to be in the generation that first saw cameras made for general public use. Then I got to watch those cameras disappear as the digital made picture-taking for the average Joe really fool-proof. The real change I remember is from the advent of the “hand-held” video camera when my kids were little to the digital videos of today… on your phone. It still impresses me.

It has been a slow change in the journalism world from single-reflexes with giant lenses and bags of equipment to tiny little cameras you can fit in your pocket. The photojournalist was loathe to give up the accoutrements that made it clear who he was and what he did and that he did it for a major newspaper. The photographers from the weeklies I generally worked for had trouble convincing subjects that they weren’t somebody’s mom or dad and were taking serious photos, even if their camera and lens were diminutive.

While my children take phone photos and YouTube for granted, remember with me the days of Kodachrome and darkrooms where mysteries were solved as the film slowly developed right before your eyes. We’ve gained major convenience, but admit it … we gave up some real glamour.