Those Kodak Moments

by Curt Kovener

I remember the first camera I got as a youth.
I was in grade school and all the siblings (just me and a brother at that time) along with a number of cousins got Kodak Brownie cameras at Christmas. It was a simple box camera. The point and shoot version of its time in the late 1950’s. No focusing, no flash, no aperture settings. Just point it, hold it steady, and slowly press the shutter button.
I later learned Mom bought all of those cameras as a result of a promotion by NestlĂ©’s Quik. Each camera cost just a dollar and a proof of purchase was needed to complete the purchase. Which explains why my brother and I enjoyed gallons of chocolate milk that year.
Later in junior high, I was gifted a Polaroid Swinger camera. It was an entry-level version of the quick developing film camera at the time. Even at that young age we were entering an instant gratification age of life.
The Polaroid produced black & white photos that had to be coated with a swipe or two of a fixative otherwise the photographic image quickly faded into oblivion.
Eventually I bought a 35 mm camera and thought that was the ultimate. I shot up a couple rolls of 36-exposure color film on flowers, people, family, sunsets, and full moons. I hurried the film to the one-hour photo processor. The out of focus, poorly lit, poorly composed results were proof I had a lot to learn in the picture taking department.
But with time, trial & error, and several photo magazines and how-to books, I became more proficient. The newspaper industry routinely used Kodak Tri-X black & white film that could be bought in 12, 24 or 36 exposure rolls. Eventually, because of the number of photos taken for the newspaper, I bought it by the 100-foot roll and learned to roll my own. Film, we’re talking film here.
Then I got an auto-focus 35 mm and thought again I was at the apex of making pictures. The result was through the years, like many of you, family photo albums were filled with our own Kodak Moments.
When I finally bought my first digital camera for the newspaper and personal use, and the film cameras quickly were placed on the closet shelf.
And with such action I guess I helped to contribute to the demise of Eastman Kodak. While the Rochester, NY based company supplied a variety of cameras they were film cameras. After all, the company’s core product was film and they produce great quality film. Paul Simon even wrote and performed a song “Kodachrome”, the company’s flagship fine-grained color film.
But Kodak didn’t change while the digital demands of consumers did. And as a result, last week there was another Kodak Moment, when the company, founded in 1892 and brought affordable photography to the consuming masses for generations, filed for bankruptcy.
And that is a lesson for all of we Luddites. Change- though many of us don’t like it- is going to happen. We can change and make it happen or stay as we always are and wonder, “What happened?”