Saturday, 15 November 2014


For most of my working life I was gainfully employed by Eastman Kodak. I chose them as they were an ethical company. Their products brought joy, and better health, to millions for over a hundred years - happy snappers, amateur and professional photographers, motion picture makers, x-ray technicians. We'll pass quickly by the statistic that the armed forces were one of our biggest customers [for reconnaissance film-stock]. We'll also skate around the fact that Kodak developed the first digital camera in the 1970s but chose not to bring it to market for fear of triggering the historical inevitability that eventually saw the demise of silver-halide technology.

It's stating the obvious to say that photographic film and paper, by virtue of their light-sensitive properties, had to be manufactured in the dark - or zero ambient luminence as our American colleagues were wont to term it. What many people don't realise is that thousands of Kodak workers [and those of Agfa, Fuji, Konica] spent their working lives in total darkness on film and paper production lines. I was never on a production line, but I have experienced the conditions and such darkness is profound. These workers had pale skins and large eyes; they were the lemurs of the industrial landscape!

Because I worked for Kodak, I developed a keen interest in photography as a medium. I always preferred black and white images. There's a sense of the essence of what's being represented feeling more basic and profound, more powerful, truthful even, when shorn of the adornment of colour. Of course, colour is essential for capturing the beauty of life, nature, the universe but if you want to capture truth, then it's got to be black and white. Call me opinionated.

Today's poem was written as I pondered this black & white versus colour dichotomy and started to question the impact that powerful photographic images of the dark side of life - in newspapers, magazines, online, on tv - actually have on us, the 'consumers' of such images.

F.Stop the Moment
Dark grief,
negative relief,
pain in the grain;
graphic distress
How do we respond,
well insulated as we are,
with our emotions plied
in palatable doses only,
always pre-arranged?
We hold your sorrows
in a frame
and feel a momentary pity
that will pass and leave us
free of vast dilemmas
which mean life and death to you,
but only filter through
our complex egocentric webs
as back page articles
or early evening news.
Thanks for reading, and have a good week. S