iPhone is today’s Brownie camera

Another solid, thoroughly enjoyable article by Om Malik

…what both the Brownie and the iPhone accomplished went beyond technology. Separated by almost 100 years, they were decidedly utilitarian. The Brownie put photography in the hands of amateurs, and so has the iPhone.

They each contributed to the rise of the informal photograph in their respective eras. With the Brownie, people were taking the camera out to the beach, on cruise ships, and to other vacation destinations. Of course, the smartphone is even more portable. We are all carrying one now, and we have the ability to make pictures immediately wherever we are and share them almost simultaneously…

I own two lovely digital cameras. Slightly different eras, different form factors. I used them constantly to illustrate work on-and-offline for more than a few decades. I can’t recall the last time I took either of them with me for a walk of discovery, urban or otherwise. I take photos with my iPhone, just about every day. To what end, what purpose? Just read Om’s article.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

❝ In 1984, photojournalist Steve McCurry was in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan. He followed the sound of voices to a tent where he found a group of girls. “I noticed this one little girl off to the side that had his incredible set of eyes that seemed almost haunted — or very piercing,” he tells NPR’s Audie Cornish.

McCurry snapped a picture that ended up on the cover of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue. “The Afghan Girl” became one of the magazine’s most widely recognized photographs — and one of the century’s most iconic. To get that shot, McCurry used a type of film that has become iconic in its own right: Kodachrome.

❝ The film, known for its rich saturation and archival durability of its slides, was discontinued last year to the dismay of photographers worldwide. But Kodak gave the last roll ever produced to McCurry. He has just processed that coveted roll at Dwayne’s Photo Service in Parsons, Kan. — the last remaining location that processes the once-popular slide film.

❝ What’s on that landmark roll of film is still under wraps. It will be the subject of an upcoming documentary by National Geographic.

Looking forward to it. I love photography. Started taking pictures in my high school camera club in the early 1950’s. Three cameras gathering dust in my desk include my favorite little backpacker’s special Rollei 35B I bought in 1971. The occasional snaps you see here on my personal blog are – of course – iPhonography.

Has the digital era finally killed Kodachrome?

Once popular with photographers everywhere — and Paul Simon — Kodakchrome film may disappear for good. “Part of me feels like, boy, if only I’d been born 20 years earlier,” says the 56-year-old photographer, whose work has appeared in National Geographic magazine. “I wish they would keep making it forever. I still have a lot of pictures to take in my life.”

Only one commercial lab in the world, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, still develops Kodachrome, a once ubiquitous brand that has freeze-framed the world in rich but authentic hues since it was introduced in the Great Depression.

Eastman Kodak Co. now makes the slide and motion-picture film in just one 35mm format, and production runs — in which a master sheet nearly a mile long is cut up into more than 20,000 rolls — fall at least a year apart.

Kodak won’t say when the last one occurred nor hint at Kodachrome’s prospects. Kodachrome stocks currently on sale have a 2009 expiration date. If the machines aren’t fired up again, the company might just sell out the remaining supplies, and that would be the end…

Nowadays, Kodachrome is confined to a small global market of devotees who wouldn’t settle for anything else. And before long, industry watchers say, Kodak might well stop serving that steadily shrinking niche as the 128-year-old photography pioneer bets its future on electronic imaging.

Digital photography is the technology that started my acquaintance with John C. Dvorak. His articles in PC Mag got me started with digital photography – and added a additional segment of creativity to what has been a lifelong hobby.

Most of the professional photographers I know haven’t changed over for one simple economic reason: they have too much money invested in whatever film-based system they still use.