Sunday, February 5, 2012

Goodbye, Kodak

The first camera I ever learned to use was a Kodak. I think it was a Brownie Hawkeye (did I get it right?) I picked up second hand in a camera store down the street with allowance money I had saved.

The black and white film I put in it was, of course, Kodak. My first portrait shot was of my mother, standing stiffly on our front porch, posing for my camera.

A few weeks after getting the camera, I borrowed a book from the library on photography and taught myself to develop film. I got three 5x7 trays, the basic assortment of small packages of developer, stop bath, and fixer, a small contact print frame, and I was on my way to creating small contact prints. Everything, the trays, the chemicals, the contact print paper, had the Kodak logo in them. I think the first prints I made myself were of a trained monkey that accompanied an organ grinder who showed up at Coolidge Corner, near my house. That was my first attempt at street photography.

After my first foray into photo processing in the kitchen, my father converted a tiny bathroom in the basement into a small darkroom for me. I added a developing tank and a really cheap enlarger (not made by Kodak) to my growing collection of tools.

I was 10 or 11 years old, and I was hooked for life.

I'd frequently go to that local camera store and "window shop" for used equipment and cameras. I remember picking up a free illustrated catalog of Kodak products and spending hours day-dreaming over the equipment, calculating how many weeks of saving my allowance it would take before I could buy a real Kodak enlarger.

The neighborhood camera store is long gone.  Done-in long before the digital revolution by the big discounters and then the internet. 

Now Kodak is gone ... but fondly remembered.

Kodak is imprinted on my memory of pre-adolescence the way Schwinn, Levi, Barbie or Louisville Slugger is for other adults.

Many other photographers have written their own version of this posting. One that provides some insight into the background of Kodak's demise is authored by Michael Chiusano, and can be found here on the Luminous Landscape website.

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