While in Vienna I saw the surprising and nostalgic sight of two tourists helping each other to change a role of film in their camera. The development of film has been superseeded by digital cameras which themselves are losing to mobile phone cameras. Mobile phone cameras are digital cameras but the camera as an artefact is slowly disappearing. Another thing that happened in Vienna was that I browsed a collegues photographs of the art she had seen over the last year all stored in her mobile phone – no need for a camera here.
The demise of photographic film is a fascinating story beginning way back in 1876 when Hurter and Driffield experimetnted with light sensitivity of film. Naturally early photography did not use rolls of film which I have pangs of nostalgia for but the early daguerreotypes used tricky glass plates consisting of polished silver surfaces coated silver halide particles deposited by iodine vapor (wikipedia).
Eastman Kodak changed all this in 1885 with the first flexible photographic film. This breakthrough made cameras cheaper, easier to use, lighter to carry and the era of snapshot photography was launched. Now the photographer could easily carry a camera and use it on people who did not have to be standing still. The privacy implications launched a major discussion into the nature of privacy in relation to technology. The seminal article in the privacy field is The Right to Privacy by Warren and Brandeis (1890), is still widely quoted.
The move from the heavy and complex equipment to the small, cheap and portable devices show how changes in base technology affect social change. The ubiquitous holiday snaps are a product of these developments. Now that this phase is going to its grave, being overtaken by digital photography, we see new developments. More photographs are being taken and (maybe) saved but there also seems to be an issue of accessibility and use.
If the pictures are not online do we ever look at them?
I read about this photography project on Boing Boing and thought it was worth the advert on this blog. Giving alternative groups of people access to photographic technology leads to the production of exciting new material.
Los Angeles-based photographer and blogger Dave Bullock says:
The Skid Row Photography Club‘s first show, The Beauty of the Street, premiered last Thursday during the Downtown Art Walk. The participants were ecstatic to see their beautiful work on the walls and the hundreds of people who came into the gallery loved what they saw.The SPRC started as an idea I “borrowed” from the movie Born Into Brothels . I wrote a proposal to the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council to buy digital cameras which we then gave to people living in Skid Row. I gave the participants brief lessons in composition and turned them loose. For the last six months we’ve met every Tuesday at UCEPP in Skid Row.
During that time they shot over 20,000 photos between them. An amazing body of work ranging from flowers to architecture to a man defecating in the middle of the street.
Dave asks if any Boing Boing readers might want to donate digital cameras to folks living in Skid Row, so they might extend the project. “The cameras we’ve been using are about $200 each,” he explains. “We’re just a club, not a non-profit as of yet.”
More info here on how you can participate. The short version: if you would like to donate digital cameras please email Dave directly at email@example.com.
Skid Row, in case you don’t know, is a massive, permanent homeless encampment in downtown Los Angeles — the largest such community in the United States. About 8-9,000 homeless people live there. This “heat map animation” provides a compelling visualization of the site, though data hasn’t been updated in a while.
The first camera I remember was my grandfather’s Ikoflex 1A 854/16
This is a very cool camera which I never really mastered. I now have this as a memory of my grandfather but after reading Ivor Matanle’s article on the history and use of the Ikoflex TLRs Classics to Use (Amateur Photographer, 29 October 2005) I have been inspired to test the camera.
My first camera was nothing this complex. I was eventually given a Kodak Instamatic with a cubeflash. I used this to take my first pictures.
There was an especially long gap between the Instamatic and my next camera. With my first paycheck I bought a Nikon F-301, a really cool toy which I used to experiment with. I tried out different lenses and external flashes. The only drawback was that I did not develop my own photos so experiments were slow and expensive. So I really did not make much progress. Eventually I dropped photography.
My hobby came back when I bought a Canon EOS 30 which was a really cool camera but still had the main drawback in that I needed to develop the photographs before I could analyze the mistakes I had made. Actually I should have gone straight to a digital version but due to some misguided snobbery I chose not to go digital.
Finally, I made the move to digital and got a Canon EOS 400D. Now I am happily taking photos, attempting to understand the results and develop what I see and learn. In addition to this, thanks to my Flickr account I am able to easily upload and share my photographs.
So by going digital I was able to develop my hobby to the extent that it actually can be called a hobby.