I got a Reader’s Digest magazine in the mail today, one of those things where they send you a copy hoping to get you to subscribe.
My parents got the magazine for many years and I enjoyed it.
I haven’t even started reading it and I know I probably won’t subscribe.
Back in the day, the front cover was a copy of some work of art. The back cover told you about it, who created it and why it was important. This one…a cartoon graphic about one of the title stories. Some kind of “life hack” story. You know, one of those things that tells you what you need to know and do different so life is better, supposedly.
Flipping through, the pages used to be slick magazine paper, like this was important and you would be better off and more knowledgeable when you read it. Now, it feels like cheap newsprint. Like one of the gossip rags at the checkout.
Yes, I’ll read it. But they will have to REALLY impress me with content to get me to read another one. Unless they send it for free too.
This one fits into both categories, a container of Kodachrome film, a relic of the day of putting film into a camera, taking a limited number of pictures and sending it to Kodak to be developed and get pictures back. None of this instant stuff. Photography was a craft to be learned, not just a virtual button to be touched.
I lived photography for 20 years in photo labs, and took classes for several years at the beginning of that time. I am old school, and then learned the new school. I embrace the new with the knowledge of the old.
When I was a child, my dad had a makeshift darkroom in a storeroom off the carport in the house I grew up in. I remember watching the pictures magically appear on the black and white paper and then they would get washed in the bathroom sink which had an overflow so the water could keep running. I got the impression my mother did not entirely approve of the process.
Sometime in my late teens, my dad taught me about exposures and how to use a camera. The one he had and that we used was an old Agfa he had gotten when he was in the Army in Germany many years before. Somewhere I have one print from that era. It is a photograph I am still proud of, good exposure, composition and texture. If I could find it, I would share.
When I was in college, ah, those Lon Morris days, I majored in Art and learned more about artistic vision and composition but no more about photography. I stagnated with art, I couldn’t make my hands put on paper what my mind could see. I had a teacher who didn’t see what I needed and could only teach the basics to me.
There were thing I learned in college, and art wasn’t one of the major ones. It was also the first time in my life I made friends based on who I was instead of who they thought I should be or what box I had always fit in.
Several years later, I lived in a tiny town near Tyler called Noonday, and I returned to school. This time it was Tyler Junior College and I went in with the intention of taking all the classes they had in photography. I started with basic black and white and progressed through 5 other classes. We learned about exposure, dynamic range, expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows, burning and dodging while making a print. Did you know, after you have been exposed to the photo chemicals for several years, you will develop a sensitivity to the chemicals? I would taste the black and white fixer if I got any of it on my skin. Instantly. A chemical taste in my mouth. I wonder if it still does?
I also learned about color photography. You have to relearn a few things. The primary colors of light are red, green, and blue. Secondaries are yellow, green, and cyan.
When my first marriage ended and I needed a job, I was hired by a local one hour photo lab called Cheetah Photo. That was where I learned about the commercial side of the business. That is also when I learned about how many ways there are to take a bad picture.
The years moved on and digital started showing it’s presence. At first it was a question of “how do I print my digital pictures so I can show them off?” Still boom times in the photo industry.
Then, not so much. People figured put how to print pictures at home, printers improved and you could take 100 pictures and print out less than a dozen at home. One really good one can be shared by email with friends and family.
And then came Facebook. Sharing of pictures is a necessity now. You take a great (mediocre) picture with your smartphone, post it instantly by your choice of social media for the world/all your friends to see. No paper copy needed.
Instead of carrying a picture of your loved ones in your wallet, you carry their Facebook page in your phone with instant access to any picture they ever posted.
The only thing that is constant in life is change.