by John Delach
One of these days I will accept that I’m old, out of touch and a victim of this brave new world. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to rant. Today, I have chosen to tackle what has happened to the art and science of photography in the age of selfies, snapchat, etc. But I’ll be damned if we, the last of the breed of amateur photographers, who spent a lifetime dedicated to developing the best photographic skills we could master shall quietly go into the night beaten, devoured and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of cellular, smart phone and tablet produced junk photography without having our say.
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
December of 2013, in the early days of this blog site, I wrote a piece about a photograph taken at a football game in 1962 between the Giants and the Lions. I noted: “The colors are so vivid that the photographer must have used Kodachrome film. A marvelous photograph, the colors…shock the senses, and yet, only a photograph of an ordinary play taken on a sunny afternoon at the big ballpark in The Bronx. Brilliant!”
An observer recently noted: “In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.”
Kodachrome was introduced in 1935. It required complex processing and was sold process-paid until 1954 when a legal ruling prohibited this. Subsequent additions like Fujichrome and Kodak’s own, Ektachrome reduced market share but it was the advent of quality digital photography that ended its run. Kodak announced its demise in July of 2010 when only one certified processing facility remained: Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas. Ektachrome followed, exiting in 2012 leaving Fujichrome to soldier on alone.
Most semi-serious amateur photographers converted to digital, coming to terms with a loss of quality in favor of the conveniences digital brings. We mothballed our film single lens reflex (SLR) cameras in favor of new Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc. digital SLRs and continued our quest to imitate great photographers like Ansel Adams, Robert Riger, Arthur Hammond and John Thompson. A friend of mine, Fred Fort, fits this description and noted to me, “Much as I love photography I have come to realize, sadly, that the pleasure I get is from looking at other people’s work and from gear since I’ve hardly ever seen a gadget I didn’t want. I currently own three old 35mm film SLRs that haven’t been used in years, two dust covered 35mm slide projectors, a gadget that prints photos from slides plus an 8mm movie projector. All this in addition to three digital SLR cameras and two digital movie cameras. Pretty ridiculous.”
My own experience is similar to Fred’s although Fred has outdistanced me in the number of SLRs he possesses. But if I include Nikon SLRs that I have purchased for both my daughter and daughter-in-law, the gap narrows.
Digital changed the game but quality remained. The biggest difference; digital allowed for instant review of the selected image offering the photographer the opportunity to re-shoot to his / her content or to fire away a dozen or more shots and sort out the best of the batch at one’s leisure. Photography remained fun and rewarding.
Since I retired in 2000, I have traveled with my wife and friends, here and abroad, enjoyed annual baseball trips and separate football trips following my Football Giants across America. Last fall, I finally made it with my son and his boys to Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
I was a driven photographer, camera ready-anticipating lens changes. Digital let me crop shots, expand them and change the subjects by shifting the vision. Digital gave me abilities once limited to a photo lab – life was good.
Enter the cellular phone and the narcissistic selfie. How do you compete with a sea of junk photography? You don’t. In 2008, we sailed through the Panama Canal allowing me a brilliant opportunity to enjoy photographing that experience. Today, I’d leave my camera at home. Selfie-sticks and a mob holding up smart phones and tablets overwhelm photo opportunities.
A photo album, excuse me, just what is a photo album? Exactly, and so it goes. It’s in the cloud or on the internet. The idea of amateur photography being an art is dead and buried. So, if you are like most of us, you gave up, removed the batteries from your SLRs and stored them in closets.
All seems lost but I did read that Kodak Alaris, a U.K. based company that acquired Kodak’s film division plans to resurrect Ektachrome. (Alas, Kodachrome appears lost to the ages. The complex processing technique precludes its resurrection.)
I’m not holding my breath but…but… I have my Nikon N8008S sitting in a box and I’d sure like to fire it up one more time.