By Gary Cameron
Like so many consumers who have seen the continual demise of Eastman Kodak and it’s many film, and film-related products, I view today’s filing for Chapter 11 protection with incredible sadness. That sadness is coupled, however, with the cruel understanding of how a great U.S. company that once led the world in its respective industry, is poised now to go the same route as Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Pontiac, and join an ever-growing group of American industrial icons that did not keep up or improve their product enough to stay competitive.
As a news photographer of 32 years, a lot of Kodak film and chemistry has passed through my hands. Having the last name of Cameron played a part. Schoolyard taunts of “Gary Camera, Gary Camera,” never angered me. Taking pictures was a cool thing to do.
When I was five years old, I would swipe my Uncle Dave’s Leica rangefinder camera that was always loaded with Kodachrome color slide film and attempt to imitate the actions required to take a picture. I knew that this lever would advance the film, this window was where you looked through to take the photo, and that was about it. No focusing and no understanding of how to set the aperture or shutter speed to control the amount of light hitting the film plane. It was always a surprise to my Uncle that somehow, in that batch of processed color slides, there were 36 exposures of a roadside park trash can, all out of focus, and all over, or under, exposed.
Most Sunday’s found my family gathered at my Grandmother’s house for a great seven-course Italian meal, followed by an Uncle Dave slide show. Great pasta, but there was no editing of the numerous slide trays of the Mackinac Bridge, the flower show at Hudson’s department store, the retirement dinners from Hudson’s, the building of the Interstate highway system through Detroit, family baptisms, birthdays, vacations, Detroit Tigers’ camera days, (you got to go on the field… and take pictures of the players!), Christmas trees with presents, Christmas trees AFTER the presents, well, you get the idea. That’s a lot of color slides, and I saw every exposure, every angle, every single, damn one. No one in the family was spared, and neither were any slides. Those slides still exist today with little or no color shift. That is some great film and chemistry!
It was only a natural progression that I would chase photography as a career, in one form or another. Advertising and shiny, new car photos appealed to me so much that I applied, and was accepted, to the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California. Reality set in though, when I started adding up the tuition, cost of living, and large format camera and color film costs. No, I could never afford that; better go with an affordable San Francisco State University tuition and black and white.