Thursday, February 7, 2013

The End of Analog Photography

While the subject headline for this article is somewhat inaccurate, as in I don't believe that film photography will entirely disappear anytime soon, there is a newish book called The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era that is an extended photo-essay dealing with the closing of Kodak manufacturing plants and other photo-related businesses around the world. This book and project was created by Canadian photographer and teacher Robert Burley. Burley, who teaches at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, spent six years, starting in 2005, traveling and photographing with a large format 4x5 camera and color film. He captured the dissolution of the Kodak plant in Toronto and ended up photographing at Dwayne's Photolab in Parsons, Kansas, which was the last lab to process Kodachrome film. Steve McCurry, National Geographic photojournalist and the man who shot the famous "Afghan Girl" image, shot the last roll that they processed. When Burley started the project, he knew that he was capturing a major turning point in the evolution of photographic imaging, when the technology shifted from silver-based imaging to digital imaging. This is an important subject and I am glad Burley was there to capture it. I know that there will be a time in the not too distant future when black-and-white film-based photography will seem as quaint and old-fashioned as wet plate photography and albumin prints. The Disappearance of Darkness is a memorial to that technology. The book is now on its second printing and can be purchased through Amazon, though as of now it appears to be out of stock.