Did you know that some of the most famous master painters from centuries past may have actually used camera “technology” to aid them in creating their masterpieces? According to the hotly debated Hockney-Falco thesis, some well-known artists likely used rudimentary camera obscura rooms as a tool — essentially “tracing” parts of their work.
Christopher Bonanos, author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid, has authored a lengthy piece for the Washington Post on what Kodak — and whoever buys its film lines — can learn from the fall of Polaroid. The article offers some interesting facts about, and insights into, the film photography industry:
Yes, Polaroid and Kodak made hundreds of millions of cameras. But that was never their principal business: The hardware existed mostly to sell film. This is what business-school professors call the razor-blade model, pioneered by Gillette: The razor is sold at minimal profit or even given away, and the blades sell for years afterward at a healthy profit margin. Amazon does the same with the Kindle, selling it cheaply to encourage enthusiastic e-book buying.
More than anything else, Polaroid’s desire in the 1990s to keep film sales up and film factories humming was what killed the company. When it should’ve been diving into a variety of digital businesses, Polaroid doubled down on analog-film production, building new production equipment and trying to economize.
The business model Bonanos describes is also known as freebie marketing.
What Kodak could still learn from Polaroid [The Washington Post]
Image credit: razor blade by scottfeldstein
YouTube illusion and science channel Brusspup recently did an anamorphic illusion project in which he photographed a few random objects resting on a piece of paper (e.g. a Rubik’s cube, a roll of tape, and a shoe), skewed them, printed them out as high-resolution prints, and then photographed them at an angle to make the prints look just like the original objects.
Stephen Dowling of BBC News has an interesting piece that tells the story of the Lomography movement and how it may be instrumental in saving film photography:
In 1991, a group of Austrian art students on a trip to nearby Prague found [...] a curious little camera [...] it produced pictures unlike anything they had seen before. The little camera was the Lomo LC-A – Lomo Kompact Automat, built in Soviet-era Leningrad by Leningrad Optics and Mechanics Association (Lomo) – and very soon a craze was born. It was an analogue Instagram in the days before digital photography.
This Lomo craze may have ended up helping save film photography from an untimely end. In 1992, the students set up Lomographic Society International, exhibiting shots taken on unwanted Lomos they had bought up from all over Eastern Europe. Then, in the mid-90s, having exhausted the supply of left-over Lomos gathering dust in Budapest, Bucharest or East Berlin, they went to the camera’s manufacturers [...] and persuaded them to restart production. The negotiations were helped along by the support of the city’s then deputy mayor, Vladimir Putin.
According to Dowling, there is speculation that Lomography is a potential suitor for Kodak’s film business that is currently for sale.
Did the Lomo camera save film photography? [BBC News]
Thanks for sending in the tip, Phil!
Image credit: LOMO LC-A e pensieri by hummyhummy
The mid-1800s was a busy time for photographic firsts. In 1838, daguerreotype inventor Louis Daguerre captured the first ever photo of a human being. One year later, in 1839, photograph pioneer Robert Cornelius stepped in front of his camera and created the first self-portrait. 1840 held yet another interesting development: the first hoax photograph.
Photographs are usually captured through viewfinders, not of viewfinders, but photographer Meggan Gould has a photo project featuring the latter. Aptly named “Viewfinders,” Gould’s series turns old analog camera viewfinders into the subject of photos, documenting both the variety of viewfinder designs and the inevitable wear and tear that results from decades of use.
During the Iranian election protests back in 2009, a 26-year-old woman named Nedā Āghā-Soltān (above right) was shot and killed while standing around and observing protestors. After footage of her death went viral online — Time says it’s likely the “most widely witnessed death in human history” — Neda’s portrait became the face of the movement, as countless protestors around the world held large prints overlaid with statements like, “Neda did not die in vain.” The problem is, one of the main photos used wasn’t actually of Neda.
In 1984, photographer Steve McCurry shot a portrait titled “Afghan Girl” that would become the defining image of his career and one of the most famous National Geographic covers ever published. In 2002, McCurry was able to locate the subject, Sharbat Gula, and learn her story. National Geographic then published a fascinating piece telling the story of the photo, the search, and the subject:
The reunion between the woman with green eyes and the photographer was quiet. On the subject of married women, cultural tradition is strict. She must not look—and certainly must not smile—at a man who is not her husband. She did not smile at McCurry. Her expression, he said, was flat. She cannot understand how her picture has touched so many. She does not know the power of those eyes.
Some interesting facts: McCurry shot the photo on Kodachrome using a Nikon FM2 and Nikkor 105mm f/2.5. Gula’s identity was confirmed by comparing her iris to the Afghan Girl’s. Although she had never seen her famous portrait, Gula distinctly remembers sitting for the photo — it was one of the only times in her life that she had a photo taken of her.
A Life Revealed [National Geographic Magazine]
Image credits: Photographs by Steve McCurry/National Geographic
Just in case this question ever comes up while you’re playing the world’s hardest game of photography trivia, what you see above is the first photograph ever snapped in Finland. Mats Söderlund of The Crop Factor writes,
This may look like something captured with Instagram on the newest smartphone, but it’s something a bit different indeed. It is the first photograph taken in Finland, ever. The photo dates back to the year 1842, and celebrated its 170th birthday last Saturday, November 3rd. The photograph is a daguerreotype [...] It was taken in Turku, which ironically also is Finland’s oldest city [...] The photographer was Henrik Cajander, a doctor by trade who lived on the very street the photo was taken [...]
As you can see the photo isn’t exactly perfect, technically or aesthetically speaking, but it is a big part of the history in Finnish photography. Some might call the crooked composition an amateur mistake, but the photographer was, in the realest sense, an amateur at what he was doing.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were a gallery of the first photographs shot in each country on Earth?
First Photograph Taken in Finland Turns 170 [The Crop Factor via Reddit]
“Say cheese.” It’s an expression that has become so much a part of our culture that everyone understands it to simply mean, “Smile,” rather than a command to actually utter the word “cheese.” For many people, smiling and posing for casual snapshots go hand-in-hand, but why do people smile for pictures, and when did this practice begin? After all, if you browse portrait photos created in the early days of photography — or even half a century ago — you’ll find the subjects wearing stoic, humorless expressions on their faces.