Monday, October 18, 2010

Kodak Moments

A child plays a part in the school play. An athlete breaks a world record. A marriage takes place. A graduation occurs. A baby smiles for the first time. Typical of what we would often refer to as “Kodak Moments”…moments worthy of preserving on film. The phrase is slipping out of the cultural vernacular, though…and for a couple of reasons.

First, Kodak is not quite the name it used to be in all things photography. Several decades ago, Polaroid and Kodak were the two companies you thought of when the topic of photography came up. Not so much today. Second, the ability to take photographs instantly these days is ubiquitous in our culture. Not so much back then!

I can’t remember my first camera, but the film had to be threaded manually, and I’m pretty sure the flash was an attachment that used flash bulbs. Before any big event, you had to make sure you had film and bulbs, and that you had wound the film. And of course, each photo involved the decision as to whether you would want to use one of the 24 or 36 photos on the roll of film for the current shot. Once taken, that frame was gone for good. And once you did take the shot, you had to remember to advance the film prior to taking the next one. If you forgot, you would end up with a double exposure…often fun to look at, but ultimately a waste of two frames on that roll of film.

Waiting for film to be processed was also a common thing. Even after the “1-Hour Photo” services sprang up, there was always a waiting period between the time a photo was taken and the time you could see the result. For years, we used those mail-in envelopes to send our rolls of film to be processed, and it would often take ten days to two weeks before receiving the photo prints and the negatives back in the return mail. And if we wanted to share photos with family and friends, we had to remember to order double prints.

What a different world we live in today! The advent of digital cameras has changed the landscape considerably. With digital cameras, we are no longer tethered to a specific number of frames per roll, because we no longer need rolls of film. As a result, we can take photos with near reckless abandon. We no longer have to be so careful that we‘re capturing just the right shot. We pretty much take one shot after the next, assuming that at least one of them will be a keepsake version of the moment we want to capture, simply discarding the rest. So while “Kodak Moments” still occur, capturing them typically comes as a result of snapping several dozen or more photos, rather than only one or two.

Another huge change came when cell phones began to include cameras. No longer did we need to remember to take the camera along. Once we owned a cell phone, we usually had it with us pretty much all the time. Once cameras were added, we suddenly had the ability to take photos on a whim, any time at all. Sharing photos became easy through the use of emailing and text messaging.

Another big change that has taken place has to do with how people share photos with each other. It used to be that we might carry some family pictures in our wallet. If we were visiting distant family or friends, we would sometimes take along a small photo album. Now much of the sharing takes place with digital photos on a laptop or a cell phone. Now that touch screen phones like the iPhone are becoming more widespread, it is common to see people swiping through photo after photo. And of course there are blogs and other online services like Shutterfly and Picassa which provide a place for you to upload your photos where they remain safely backed up and available for friends and family to view.

Kodak moments certainly still occur, but now they blend right in with the rest of life that is so easily photographed these days. Capturing the moment in a photograph is still as important as it ever was, but the hard part today is not making sure we’ve captured the moment, but determining which of the hundreds of shots we got captured it best!

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