Over the centuries, we have seen many changes in how people preserved their images in picture. From the days of hieroglyphics to the days of digital photography, much has changed in the world of what we now call photography. In fact, many people these day never print a photograph at all, they simply view it, share it, and save it online. Such was not always the case. It use to be that to have a picture taken was an expensive venture, and one that was not done often. Then as photography became more and more common, pictures became a common thing. These days with digital cameras, taking pictures is commonplace, and people even take selfies because they can, and it’s something new and fun.
The original cameras were big, bulky, and expensive. One avid photographer, George Eastman wanted to bring the world of photography to the masses. George worked on his project until he perfected a Kodak camera that used a roll of dry, transparent, and flexible, photographic film, which he had also invented. That was on September 4, 1888, and both cameras and film…or the lack thereof, have come a long way since then. Still, it is men like George Eastman who had a dream to bring photography into the hands of the masses, who paved the way for the amazing abilities we have today. To me, pictures are gold…pure gold. They tell of at time we couldn’t have known about. All we have is the stories that history has told, and the pictures to show us what it was like.
In 1883, Eastman announced the invention of photographic film in rolls, but he had no way to use it then. Kodak the company was born in 1888 when the first Kodak camera entered the market. The camera came the Kodak camera could easily be carried and handheld during its operation. The camera came pre-loaded with enough film to take 100 pictures. “You press the button, we do the rest” promised George Eastman in 1888 with this advertising slogan for his Kodak camera. George Eastman wanted to simplify photography and make it available to everyone, not just trained photographers. He had a dream. He knew that there was no reason that everyone could not be a photographer. All that was needed was the right equipment. After the shots in the new camera were taken, the whole camera was returned to the Kodak company in Rochester, New York. There, the film was developed, prints were made, and new film was inserted. Then the camera and prints were returned to the customer, so they could take more pictures.
I have to think that this was considered such an amazing invention. I can picture just how excited everyone was. It must have felt like we felt when men walked on the moon for the first time. Like something out of this world. Or maybe that is just the way I would have felt if I were the me of today, seeing the amazing new technology of that day. I think George Eastman must have been an amazing man of incredible vision. So many memories have been preserved because of him. George Eastman was one of the first American industrialists to employ a full-time research scientist. He wanted the best people to do the job. Later, Eastman and his associate would perfected the first commercial transparent roll film which made possible Thomas Edison’s motion picture camera in 1891. It’s funny that something that changed so many things in our world, is now almost obsolete. Digital cameras have replaced all that, and now we are able to save our memories in a whole new way. It was George Eastman who paved the way.
I know that many people took their film to get it developed right after finishing the roll, and my parents intended to do that too, but like me, life sometimes got in the way for them, and some things didn’t get done. With five daughters, I can see how that happened. In fact, I only had two daughters, and I still have some film that has never been developed. It is a sad truth, that I hate to admit…but truth it is, nevertheless. My best laid plans, somehow always seemed to get mixed up. I was glad when they came out with the Polaroid camera, because it developed the film instantly. My pictures finally had a chance of being seen by my family. It was a great improvement for me and, I’m sure for many other people too.
Be that as it may, sometimes there are in this world, hidden treasures, that you come across when you least expect it. That is what has happened for my sisters and me. The hidden treasures I am talking about, are not in the form of silver or gold, but rather in pictures. As we have gone through our parents things following our mother’s passing, we have come across many pictures. We have reminisced, laughed, and yes, cried too, as we have looked at these great treasures from our past. It has been a healing time, but there was also a treasure that was so hidden, that it had never been seen by human eyes. We came across roll after roll of undeveloped film…some of it almost sixty years old. When we looked at the rolls of film, we really expected that there would be nothing we could do to save them, and there may indeed be some that are lost forever, but we have been amazed at how many are fine, and in reality they are of really good quality.
We have been having a wonderful time looking over just the few that our sister, Alena Stevens has forwarded to us, until we can get together to see them all. It is such a wonderful gift, to be given a part of our childhood that while we may remember it, we have never seen it in pictures. It’s a trip down Memory Lane, except that many of the “memories” are completely new to us…previously unseen memories. How rare it is to be given such a gift…such a treasure. I suppose that in retrospect, it might have been better to have developed the pictures before, so our parents could have seen them too. Nevertheless, that did not happen, and in this way, it is like a special little present that our parents left us. It is like a secret plan that they had, to leave us something that they knew would make us happy after they were gone, and believe me, we know just how amazing and special it is. And the really good news is that there are more pictures to come. I just hope that the rest of them turn out just as good as these did, so that we will have lots more hidden treasures left to us by our parents in the future. The gift that keeps on giving…forever.
As a kid, I remember that when my parents were kissing and we were around to see it, my sisters and I always chanted, “Mommy and Daddy are kissing! Mommy and Daddy are kissing!” It was just a fun way of teasing them…not that it bothered them any. They loved having us chanting and teasing them. I suppose that in some families, there is less demonsterative behaviour, but in our house, hugging and kissing was the norm…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kids, for generations, have felt many different things when it comes to romance. They might be laughing about a couple kissing, because they are a little embarrassed, or it could be because they are sure that one of the people kissing are going to end up with cooties, which one depends on whether the watcher is a girl or a boy. Of course, they will outgrow those feelings and they they will be the ones being laughed at, teased, and watched. It is just the nature of the romance business.
And for as long as kids have been making fun of couples in love, people have been trying to capture those moments in one way or another…whether it be on canvas or on film. And for equally as long, those couples have been chasing, yelling at, and telling on the offending youngsters, begging their parents to intervene, and save them from the horrible humiliation of their younger siblings and their friends. Of course, most of their parents just don’t take the matter a seriously as the romantic couple would like…mostly because they have been there and the understand that a little teasing really isn’t the end of the world their children believe it to be. They also understand that in a few years the tables will turn and it will be that younger sibling who will be right there telling on another younger sibling…or possibly that older sibling getting even with them…something older siblings aren’t above either.
Recently, while looking through some old school pictures, I came across one of my own, that I vividly remember being very embarrassed about as a kid. It was silly, I suppose, but at the time…I just couldn’t believe it. Back then, the photographer couldn’t be totally sure that the subjects eyes were open, or that they smiled, or if they had hair in their eyes, or much else about the picture until it was developed. They looked through the view finder, but there was that second when they snapped that picture where they just had to hope the subject held the position they had seen them in just long enough for the picture to be taken. And film cost money, so they didn’t take several shots in the hope of having one turn out…at least not until the senior pictures were taken and the family was paying for all that film.
The other challenge a photographer faced, was getting a child to smile when they maybe didn’t feel like doing so. With no parents there to make the child sit still and smile, the photographer was on his own, so he would usually come up with any funny comment he could think of to guarantee that coveted smile in each of the hundreds of school children that passed in front of his camera on any given day. Sometimes, that was a huge challenge. Kids might have had a bad morning, didn’t like what their mom made them wear, or didn’t like their hair. Whatever the case, kids can be very temperamental when things aren’t going their way.
I don’t recall ever being one of those children who didn’t smile for the camera, but still the photographer didn’t know that, so he had to do what he felt was necessary to guarantee my smile. In this particular year, the photographer thought he had it all figured out, and on the smile part, he did, but there was just one small problem…the eyes. No, I didn’t close them, as you can clearly see, but I wasn’t looking at the camera either. When I saw the picture, I thought, “Oh yuck!! I look goofy!!” I couldn’t have retakes, because the stipulations for retakes were things like eyes closed or hair in the eyes, not eyes looking up. You might be asking yourself, what was she doing that caused her to be looking up. It’s a valid question and one that I can still answer for you. This is the look you get when you ask a little girl, “Do you have a boyfriend?” I always did those days, of course, but I had to think about whether or not I was willing to tell the photographer that. You might be wondering why my hair didn’t bother me too, but that was the style then…my goofy look wasn’t. I just have to wonder if he asked the girls that particular question after that.