John W. Pinkerton

The other day, my wife, Linda, was rummaging through an old box of photos with my mother, age 95, and our little niece, Jaclyn, age 7.  Our niece noticed a stack of black and white negatives in the box and asked, “What’s that?”  Linda tried to explain, but I don’t think it was very meaningful to her.

This incident got me to thinking about how much photography has changed over the years. 

I think the first camera I used as a kid was an Ansco 120.  It was just a box camera, but I got good quality photos with it.  Being an inventive kid, after noticing that some of my black and white photos were blurry due to camera movement, I used some play dough to stabilize the camera on a tabletop and discovered much better results...astonishingly better.  I recall taking a picture of my Uncle Knute which was as crisp as a Ritz cracker.

In high school I took photos for our yearbook, the Kepi.  I recall using two cameras: a 120 twin lens reflex camera and a 4x5 press camera.  The twin lens was great for most situations, but the
press camera is the one I used for athletic events like basketball and football.  The only memorable picture I ever took was one evening at a football game.  I accidentally triple exposed one negative on the big old press camera.  As I recall, it contained the coin flip, cheerleaders, and action on the field.  Great photo but it was the result of an accident. 

When I was in the service in Furth, Germany, I discovered that the kasern had a photo lab open to the military men.  It was a self-serve type of lab, and I quickly learned that the process for developing and printing black and white film and prints was extremely easy.

Later when I became the sponsor of the Chieftain, the yearbook at Somerville High School, I managed to convince the administrators that we should set up a darkroom for the yearbook.  I was sponsor of the Chieftain for about fifteen years and, therefore, spent many hours in the darkroom.  One year we purchased a color processing kit.  It worked fine, but I found that I didn’t really have much control of the process, and it wasn’t cheap.

Somewhere in those years I realized that I didn’t have a natural talent for photography.  When I finally took a marvelous photo, which was of Doctor Pazdral who was given an award by the high school football players at half time of a football game for his fifty years of faithful service to the team, I realized how mundane all the other thousands of photos I had taken were.  That signaled the end of my picture taking days.

I recently took a photo of myself which I manipulated with my computer photo program which for a moment gave me hope that I had suddenly developed superior skills as a photographer.  After a moment of exhilaration, I came back to reality realizing that between digital cameras and computer programs which allow extensive manipulation, that anyone can make pretty impressive photos today. 

During my first few years of our married lives, we took very few family photos.  In fact, I don’t even think
we owned a camera.  One year Linda surprised me by asking me to give her a camera as a Christmas present.  For some reason I doubted that she would use it much, so I bought her the cheapest camera available.  About a thousand dollars later spent on film and processing, I was convinced that she meant it when she said she needed a camera.  I bought her a great 35mm Minolta which was followed by a great Sony digital camera with a huge lens, which was followed by a purse-sized Sony digital, which was followed by a printer dedicated to photo production.  She doesn’t use the printer much now because she discovered that she could ship her digital pictures via the internet to a drugstore a few miles away and have them printed almost immediately.

Once I was finally relieved of my duties as sponsor of the yearbook, and I realized that I wasn’t a talented photographer, and the fact that Linda actually enjoys taking photos, I gave it up.  Occasionally I’m called into service by someone with a camera who wants to be in the photograph.

I did find need to buy a digital camera in order to take photos of my artwork to be reproduced as prints.  I believe it’s 14 megapixels.

Not many of us are prolific recorders of family histories.  Photos have taken the place of written records.  I always feel a little sad when I find family photos
in junk or antique shops.  They make me wonder what happened to the families.  Did they meet sudden and tragic ends?  Did no remaining members care enough to preserve the photos?  Old photos are often mysteries even when they’ve been retained by family members.  “Who’s that?” is often heard as family members pore over old photos.  I’ve saved all of my mother’s photos, and Linda has saved all of her family photos.  I hope some one saves all of the photos that Linda has taken.  This may be the only lasting record that I ever existed, not that it’s important.

In case you’re interested, here are few highlights of the history of photography:

                                 1822- Nicephore Niepce takes the first fixed,

                            permanent photograph

                            1839- Louis Daguerre patents the daguerreotype

                              William Talbot invented the positive/negative

                                               process widely used in modern photography

                            John Herschel makes first glass negative

                           1861- James Maxwell introduced the first

                                            color photograph

                            1871- Eadweard Muybridge makes first

                            high-speed photographs

                            1887- Celluloid film base was introduced

                            1888- Kodak box camera was mass marketed

                            1989- Kodak introduced folding pocket camera

                            1900- Kodak introduced first Brownie

                            1902- Wire-Photos first introduced (photographic

                            images transmitted by wire)

                            1907- the first color photography process marketed

                            1912- Kodak introduced Vest Pocket Kodak

                            1920- Yasujiro Niwa invented phototelegraphic

                            transmission through cable and later via radio

                            1926- Leica introduced 35mm format

                            1935- film cartridge introduced making 35mm

                                            film easy to use

                            1948- Edwin Land introduced the first Polaroid

                            instant image system

                            1957- first digital image produced on a computer

                            1973- Fairchild Semiconductor released the first

                            large image forming CCD chip

                            1986- Kodak invents world’s first megapixel sensor

                            2000- first commercially available camera integrated

                            with mobile phone

                            2005- AgfaPhoto files for bankruptcy

                            2008- Polaroid discontinues instant film products

                            2009- Kodak discontinues Kadachrome film


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