Taking Pictures

Readers of this blog may have noticed that I use the phrase “taking pictures” rather than “shooting,” “snapping,” “photographing” or more pretentious language like “exposing the negative.” The phrase “taking pictures” dates back to the time of George Eastman’s first advertisement in 1888 which included the phrase, “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest.”

And Kodak, indeed, did the rest. The Kodak camera came pre-loaded with enough film for 100 exposures. After the film was exposed the whole camera was returned to the Kodak company in Rochester, NY, where the film was developed, prints were made, and a new roll of photographic film was inserted into the camera. The camera and prints were then returned to the customer, for the cycle to be repeated.

And 131 years later I find I think about photography in much the same way, separating what happens before I press the button from what happens after I press it.

Before I press the button today I still do exactly what I did in 1952. I put a roll of film in my camera, adjust any available camera controls, frame the shot in the viewfinder and, finally, press the button. No part of that sequence depends at all on what happens after I press the button.

The consistency of what happens before I press the button contrasts with the changes over the years to what happens after I press the button.

In the early years I took the film out of the camera and handed it to the clerk at the Walgreens drug store. Several days later I returned to Walgreens to collect an envelope containing my developed negatives and prints.

After a number of years and dozens of envelopes my father and I set up a darkroom where I developed the roll of film, made a contact print of the whole roll, and printed enlargements of the pictures I liked.

More years passed. Reduced space and increasing demands on my time made working in a darkroom impractical. I continued to develop my own film but now I was scanning the negatives, first with a flatbed scanner and more recently with a digital camera, editing the files with a computer, and making inkjet prints.

The important observation to make here is that no part of what happens after I press the button depends at all on what happened before I pressed the button. I can happily mix taking pictures using pre-WWII camera technology with using 2019 technology to do the rest after I take them.

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