This is probably considered a form of plagiarism, and I would not normally directly copy another’s work, but this article hit home for me. I’m going to reference the heck out of it to give credit where credit is due. David Gonzales, New York Times writer, apparently shares the same passion I do, and is mourning an icon’s fall…
January 19, 2012, 12:30 pm
Life — and Kodak — Remembered
By DAVID GONZALEZ
This was not an unexpected Kodak moment.
The iconic company’s bankruptcy filing had been foreshadowed in recent weeks. Yet there was something about reading Thursday morning’s reports that sadly hit home, like another medical setback for a beloved uncle who had long been ill. It signifies not just the end of an era, but a chapter of our lives.
It throws us back — in an instant — to our youth.
More than 35 years ago, I had fled my pre-med studies at Yale, more out of frustration than failure. I flailed about, toying with the idea of teaching, maybe law school, maybe business. One night, my friend Stanley Browne invited me to tag along as he spent some time in our college’s darkroom. He mixed up a batch of chemicals, turned off the lights and started printing.
Some people vividly remember their first kiss. I can still savor the absolute magic of seeing an image emerge in the tray, like a spirit made incarnate. I was hooked. The science nerd in me could relate to the chemistry. The confused kid trying to figure out his way in the world could relate to taking pictures that needed no words.
And so I became an acolyte in the Temple of Kodak. Like a convert, I embraced the rituals, spending hours under the soft amber lights, holding beakers like chalices, head bowed over trays in worshipful anticipation. There was a Zen-like comfort to these processing and printing sessions, which calmed me. I would go in after dinner and not emerge sometimes until sunrise — often with a few rolls of bulk-loaded Tri-X jangling in my makeshift camera bag, ready for new adventures.
I still have all my negatives from those days, neatly sorted in sheets. Just glancing at them shows my progress, from thinned out, underexposed or ill-fixed strips, to smoother, evenly exposed frames. So, too, does their content, from happy snaps of friends at the Never Never Land called Yale to my shots of the South Bronx devastation I confronted upon returning home with a psychology degree that was near-useless (Slides 1 and 2).
Kodak was part of my daily routine for years. Then, it stopped. I became a writer and put my cameras away. For a while, I kept my tanks, trays and Omega enlarger. But the fact is, I had neither the time nor the inclination to set up a darkroom at home. I moved from city to city with my negatives, which sat in binders like unread notes to myself.
The fact is, had it not been for digital, I would not have started shooting again in 1999. It allowed me to take pictures anywhere I went, and share them a lot more easily than in the old days. It’s easy, maybe too much so: When money was tight and dinner was a bottle of Löwenbräu and arroz con longaniza at La Nueva Princesa, you thought twice and rationed out every frame, especially for the ones after 30.
I’m not sure I miss the process, but I do miss the routine, of long quiet nights with me, my thoughts and my negatives.
Yet those binders filled with images are hardly irrelevant. When I started scanning them in 2009, I found old shots I had ignored, rediscovered old places I had visited. I saw the South Bronx — whose devastation had so confused me — now make sense with the benefit of decades. I remembered long nights, flush with the excitement — or cockiness — of being a young shooter in New York.
I discovered snapshots of my family, in which nephews, who are now themselves parents, danced in the living room as my father, Pedro, smiled in his recliner. I came across the anguished self-portrait I took the night the tumor in Papi’s brain left him confused and lost on the streets of New York.
And I found a portrait of him — reading The Daily News by the window — that I had long forgotten.
Kodak had saved every moment