Friday, January 06, 2012

Eve Arnold, perhaps best known for her photographs of Marilyn Monroe, dies at age 99

I just found out that Magnum photojournalist Eve Arnold, the first woman taken on as a photographer by the famous photo agency, has died at age 99. Arnold was the only woman who regularly took photos of Marilyn Monroe, and the two women shared a rare, collaborative bond, which Arnold reminisces about in this video.

A couple years ago I blogged about one of Arnold's best known photos of Marilyn -- the summery photo of her reading Ulysses on a merry-go-round. In writing about their cover image, Poets and Writers editor Mary Gannon wrote this tribute to the actress and the photographer.
The photograph was taken in 1955 by Eve Arnold. In Joyce and Popular Culture, R.B. Kershner quotes a letter from Arnold about the day she took the shot:
We worked on a beach on Long Island…I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up (I was trying to get an idea of how she spent her time). She she kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it–but she found it hard going. She couldn’t read it consecutively. When we stopped at a local playground to photograph she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her.
Along with a certain irony (blonde bombshell tackles her century’s most baffling book), the photo–everything about it–has a nostalgic appeal. For those, like me, with a fetishistic attachment to books, there’s the well-worn hardback, the title and author’s name rendered elegantly on its cover. The merry-go-round Monroe sits on elicits memories of days filled with unstructured play. And behind her, the grassy clearing under the shade of the trees offers just the right place to get lost in a book.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Kodak teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to the digital photography revolution they helped invent

Kodak Teeters on the Brink

For a long time, Kodak and photography seemed synonymous to me. The company played a major role in the development of modern photography, and once its products were everywhere, and their R&D was state of the art.

I still have a few of their old metal film canisters. I used to have a couple of them taped to my camera strap. They were handy for storing all sorts of little things, not just film. For me, that familiar Kodak yellow was the color of photography, even when I was shooting black and white.

Now the headline in the Wall Street Journal reads Kodak Teeters on the Brink.
Eastman Kodak Co. is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would cap a stunning comedown for a company that once ranked among America's corporate titans.

The 131-year-old company is still making last-ditch efforts to sell off some of its patent portfolio and could avoid Chapter 11 if it succeeds, one of the people said. But the company has started making preparations for a filing in case those efforts fail, including talking to banks about some $1 billion in financing to keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.
It's a sad day. This great American company was knocked for a loop by the digital revolution, but it's not as if Kodak failed to anticipate it. Far from it. They not only saw digital imaging coming, their labs were responsible for developing much of the technology. They still make some of the best imaging chips for specialized applications ranging from astronomy to medicine. Many of those patents they're now trying to sell off are for digital technology. But they never were able to figure out how to convert their technology into a viable digital business model. They knew the digital tipping point was coming, though the speed with which the film business collapsed may have come as a surprise. They didn't have much time to adapt. Nor the management vision, it seems.

Like Xerox with the desktop personal computer interface, they weren't able to take the ball and actually run with it.