Book excerpt: A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid and the Kodak Patent War


Spectra. Wesley shoots.

We can excuse Business Insider the poor editing. This excerpt covers the transition between Polaroid’s partnership with Kodak and subsequent competition once integral film (non peel-apart) was introduced with the SX-70.

Buy the book on Amazon here, or better, get it from your local bookstore!

Here are a few of my personal favorites from my own archive:


Spectra. Kristen & Chihiro.


Type 669. Arlo & Milo.


SX-70 / Time Zero film. Serendipitous street framing.


Spectra. NC grill.


Spectra Grid Film. Arlo quartet.

“Virtually unseen” Cartier-Bresson photos to be shown in London

Cosmonauts, Leningrad Avenue, Moscow, 1972 [Photo credit: Henri Cartier-Bresson] original at URL below

They include photos of the 1968 students uprising in Paris, the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and celebrity portraiture. They come from a private collection. Let’s hope there’s an exhibition catalog or other book soon for those of us who can’t make it to London!

A Documentary about Black Photographers on PBS Tonight (US)

What looks to be a very interesting documentary on black photographers and photography will air tonight on PBS in the United States. Follow the link below for an interview with the filmmakers. I would guess that it will be available as Video On Demand and/or disc/download/etc. within a few months.

Some Good News for Kodak Film: Motion Picture Studio Deals Guarantee Production of Film

The Rondelles at The Bell House, Brooklyn, July 9, 2010

I never really thought about it, but it looks like Eastman Kodak Co. produces the still film for Kodak Alaris which it markets to us (in the US) as Kodak film. Just keep it up.

Changing Perspective with a Ricoh GR1 and Considering Cropping

Either I’m a purist, or I’m just lazy, but I dislike cropping my photographs. It’s irrational—many great photographs were cropped ruthlessly for better effect. And in fact when I did my series of photographs of author Marcus Baram for his book‘s dustjacket, I very carefully cropped final versions (not the scans you saw) according to the diagonal method[REF]. And when I shoot for my wife’s yoga studio, I crop for whatever the end purpose is. But usually I prefer to get the framing right at the time of the shot.

Alternative frames to the standard 2×3 in 35mm present new challenges and lots of fun. Just as Instagram killed the tyranny of the portrait-oriented photo on the iPhone, shooting with anything other than 35mm full frame (or 6×9 medium format) forces us to see differently and ultimately tell stories differently, if that’s what we’re doing.

The Ricoh GR1 is a point-and-shoot camera that has a “panorama” mode which is just a 24mm view with horizontal masks across the top and bottom. Some people choose to remove or otherwise thwart the masks for a true 24mm full-frame view, but I keep mine intact. It’s not a great camera, and it’s nowhere near its older sibling the GR1. Like the GR1, the LCD is prone to go bad at this age, but unlike the GR1, the lens, especially at 24mm, allows for heavy vignetting at the corners. I know some photographers see this as an “effect,” but it’s a flaw that can be frustrating. That said, if you’re shooting this camera, you’re not shooting it as a “poor person’s Leica.”


(I’m truly sorry if the image is taller than your screen resolution. It drives me crazy when other people do that.)

As with many point-and-shoots, framing is a little challenging due to the viewfinder’s position–i.e., it’s not the lens. So a shot like this would be better executed with an SLR. Shooting this with a Hasselblad and a 40mm lens, then cropping, would probably yield a more compelling photo. But the narrow effect is interesting. Cutting off the namesake’s name isn’t.


Here, I learn that I could have enhanced the story, a boy marveling at the size of a tree, by framing the child more toward the left edge of the frame and letting the wide angle focal length do its trick of making the tree’s size more dramatic. That would have distorted the boy however, one problem with working with very wide focal lengths.


In this photo, the excessive amount of space on either side might detract from the photo. The elevator and plastic bags on the right don’t say anything, and the bit of bike doesn’t either. But stepping forward (or cropping) to remove those extraneous elements wouldn’t necessarily make for a better photo.


Or maybe it would.


Perhaps it’s just a mediocre photo that is waiting for a different moment to take it (or skip it altogether).

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This is a more effective use of the portrait format and a small aperture: the man confronted by the clock tower in the distance. On the left is the full frame. I first cropped it to the version on the right to eliminate a bit of unnecessary stuff on the sides. Then I realized the overall photo looks even better with a bit more of a crop below, letting the building’s roof line bisect the image more explicitly:


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See the vignetting? There’s not much interesting about this photo. It’s an artifact I walk past a lot, a few blocks from my home. I think it’s the texture that gets me. The reason I took it as a panorama was to draw attention to the expanse of stucco on either side of this thing. The little bit of text under then bottom nail says “BOT” perhaps for “bottom.” If I got under it more with a larger aperture lens, blurring out the background, or top, it could appear to be a strange landscape; a decrepit, abandoned industrial site.

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Hello distortion!

Morning Glory is an impressive plant. I’m not a botanist, and I’m not an expert, and I didn’t look it up on Wikipedia before writing this. I know Morning Glory as the scourge of our community garden (which happens to be next door to where this photograph was taken). It mercilessly entwines itself around other plants, supplanting them by choking them to death in tight spirals of its own stem. Its leaves can change shape to resemble the plant it’s strangling, making it difficult to differentiate and purge. But like many other vines, it’s quite beautiful, and when I’m ripping it off the front fence and gates of our garden, onlookers bemoan the loss of the wall of green. Yet it must be done if we are to have other plants. I cannot see what, if anything, this plant is trying to vanquish in this photograph. Perhaps it crawled up having received a bad signal and, finding nothing, is just hanging out waiting for something to grow.

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I like 99 cent store shop windows. A well-curated shop window can be a work of art–like the holiday windows up and down Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, at Christmastime. Or it can be a masterful seduction, compelling the viewer to step inside and open her pocketbook. Or it can be “look at all this stuff we have!” It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a small reproduction of Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ or a Dora The Explorer gift bag(?) or paper products to wipe your ktichen counters, nose, and rear end. Of course, a wide angle lens finds this irresistible, because we can cram more into the frame. More. MORE!

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This photograph was taken with the on-camera flash, a tool that I’m not usually comfortable with. I love what it does for me here, though, which is take an all-white (and poorly lit) area and paint some lines on it with shadow. I like this one.

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The panoramic aspect ratio intensifies the effect of a long line of anything. The odd juxtaposition of waiting shopping carts against the Brooklyn Bridge on a pedestrian sidewalk might have been better captured in color, or with a figure in the foreground wearing a jacket that contrasts more with the carts. “Patience, David. Wait for the moment.”

As interesting and constricting as this format can be, I’m more prone to use the “normal” 30mm focal length on this camera.

Cropping? It depends on my mood on the day you ask me. When I wrote the first draft of this post, I was slightly against, just for process’s sake: i.e. enjoy the process, including framing it right when you get the shot. Now that I’ve read it through again, and looked at the final photos, I’m more relaxed about it. It’s the punch at the end that matters, and whether the viewer feels it.


Ricoh GR1
Kodak Tri-X 400TX shot at @1250 (DX Hack)
Developed in Diafine – 3 minutes each in bath A and bath B
Water stop – 1 minute
Fixed in TF-5 for 3 minutes
Hang to dry for two hours

Primo Jr. and experimenting with 127 format



A friend recently messaged me on Facebook and asked if I’d like an old camera that was her father’s. I said yes, and she promptly sent me three cameras altogether: a Primo Jr., a Canon AE-1, and a Pentax K1000. All of them seem to work. Thank you, Jennifer!

The Primo Jr. was a short-lived (1958-1960) twin lens reflex (TLR) camera from Japan. The same company is also known as Topcon, a more familiar name in the camera world. The camera shoots in the 4cm x 4cm format, also known as 4×4, and accordingly uses 127 size film. No one really makes this film in large quantities anymore, but apparently a Japanese company cuts and rolls it. If you check around, you can see that someone’s cutting and rolling 160 and 400 speed color negative film that’s made in USA <cough> Portra <cough>, but in anticipation, I ordered two rolls of ReraPan 100, the Japanese brand.

What a delightful little camera! The quality is instantly noticeable from the weight of the camera in the hands to the placement and feel of the controls. Some bits of leatherette are missing on the face, but it’s hardly noticeable. Junior’s a handsome fellow.

At my first opportunity, I loaded the camera with film and went on a shooting excursion with my little boy. The Williamsburgh Savings Bank clock tower was looking mighty fine that morning, with dramatic clouds behind it. My son said “you should take that picture.” Indeed. I checked my light meter, set the aperture and shutter, and depressed the shutter button. Nothing. I wound the camera. It kept winding until the tension let free and I realized I had just wound up a $12 roll of film without taking a shot.


See those two silver bits above the crank? Yeah, you’re going to want to read the manual. After loading the film and winding it to “1,” and making sure the red window is shut (it has a sliding door to block light), you press down on the left button and simultaneously slide the right button over it (to the left). That resets the film counter and sets the shutter.

Fast forward a few days and a donation to Butkus and I was back outside, again with my son, trying out my new toy.

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This lens is sharp! Look at the details of the century of paint on this railing detail at the entrance to Fort Greene Park. The out-of-focus areas are rendered more pleasantly that I expected, given that the Seikosha-MXL shutter has only five aperture blades. Shooting against a point light source might work out differently.

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Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. See the eagle? See the smokestacks to the left of the eagle? See the bump on the left of the left-hand smokestack? That’s the Empire State Building. I could not get a vantage point to stick it between the two smokestacks.

I actually only got half the frames I expected out of this roll. I don’t know if the shutter malfunctioned, or if I screwed up. I learned later that you shouldn’t cock the shutter then choose the 1/500 shutter speed, which I’m pretty sure I did in order to shoot with a wider aperture at times. It was also below freezing out, so old lubrication might have been at fault.

The film? I like it fine, but I haven’t had enough experience with it yet. With such a small sample, I can’t tell if there was too much contrast in some of the scenes I shot. I was a little disappointed with my exposures. I was using a hand-held incident meter.

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My next trick will be to roll the unused film onto the used spool and paper backing. Should be fun. I’m sure I won’t curse at all. As much as I’d love to just buy a few more rolls and get on with my life, twelve dollars is twelve dollars.

I developed the ReraPan in Adox APH09 (older formulation of Rodinal) for 16.5 minutes at 68F/20C. I soaked it for a minute first then flushed. I agitated for 30 seconds at the beginning, then two gentle inversions every minute thereafter. Water stop, then TF-5 Fixer for 3 minutes (if you haven’t tried it you must). Rinse and wetting agent (LFN).

Here are a couple more shots of the camera and film (all shot with my phone). You can see the exposed gold-toned screws where the leatherette is missing.

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And another shot of the eagle. Have to get my money’s worth out of the shots that came out!

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CineStill only has a few days left to fund 120 film

I know this blog only reaches a few of the diehards, but if you haven’t considered putting support behind the CineStill team for bringing a unique 120 film to market, consider doing it now, when they have only 4 days left to fund their campaign. And even if you’re unable to fund it (or uninterested in it), do read their latest note. It’s a love letter to those (us) who are keeping film alive: