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November 01, 2013

Photography Today in Perspective

Our heritage is those things that are passed down in various ways that establish our roots and who we are.  The development of photography is one of the most important heritage components. The development of film and cameras has added remarkable insight into history, genealogy and our perspective on life in general.  But film photography is on its last legs. There are still a few  places where you can get film processed and negatives printed 

Robert Burley a professor at Ryerson University has spent years looking at the demise of film and has produced a book on the subject along with a major exhibition.  In a Macleans article (Oct. 21) he says that “when people flee their burning homes now they don’t have to worry about their photos.” The photos are stored in the cloud or among 220 billion images on Facebook, the world’s largest photo album. 

Burley’s book The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era looks at length at the Eastman Kodak film and camera  monolith based in Rochester, New York which employed 60,000 people but eventually went bankrupt. Burley’s exhibition on the end of film photography opened October 18 at the National Gallery in Ottawa.  Another version of the exhibition is on in France where early strides in photography took place.  There will be a later showing of the exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto. 

From a heritage perspective our world is seen in a different way because of film photography because we were able see images frozen in time where only paintings and words existed before.  As the saying goes one picture is worth a thousand words.Photographs are an important part of the  articles I have written in Community Voices. In early articles I usually used existing photos but as time went by I started to use many of the digital photos I took. With a couple of photos per article there are hundreds of  photos augmenting my words on line on Heritage Perspectives 

Like many people, film has been an important part of my life and my family’s life for as long as I can remember. My brother and I have been committed genealogists for generations and have sought and used many photographs. My wife and I with over 60 years of marriage and many offspring have taken thousands of photos and we have many albums and boxes of photos and negatives and many digital prints. 

I have written about several photographers I have respected. My maternal grandmother’s sister had a daughter Mary Spencer who was a remarkable pioneer professional photographer in the early days of film.  I wrote about her and her photos used in the famous Bill Miner train robber history and movie. A new book on Mary’s life was recently  launched in Kamloops and shows many of her photos. It is called the True Story of Pioneer Photographer, Mary Spencer. (Google Kamploops Museum for information). My article on Mary appeared in Community Voices on December 8, 2006 – Google Heritage Perspectives and go to date indicated. 

Another article reference of interest is “Hartley Trussler Remembered on Powassan’s 100th” (June 30, 2005). Hartley’s photos and writing are a remarkable record of a bygone era. I mounted an exhibition of his photos at the Powassan Library’s Downstairs Gallery in Powassan’s Centennial Year. 

There are hundreds of digital movies  these days including many made locally. Check out VIEMO a video site that has some of the work by North Bay’s Jim Calarco and Kevin Hoffman including the award winning “Strangers”.

My grandchildren swimming at the Hydro pond in Powassan.

As I mentioned photographs have been important to me and I should  recognise my son Paul who designed and published all of my books and used  advanced photographic design in the process using film and digital prints making the books much different than books in the past. 

When talking about film I remember my oldest son Clarke who began making 8mm films in his early teens in the 1950s, won awards and insisted on becoming a film maker at age 16 and dropped out of high school.  He has been filmmaker ever since including 25 years as a professor of film studies at Queen’s University. He is currently making a feature length documentary on our family history in the 1960s. Check him out on Wikepedia and see how photography can be a way of life.

 My digital photo shows 2 of my grandchildren swimming at the Hydro pond in Powassan this summer and shows how memories can be preserved.

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