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The Pike Log: Random Entries About Making His Story Mine

Making Kodak Moments

I loved them all: the cool blues of Ektachrome, the Hollywood movie colors of Kodachrome, and the 3200-speed of B&W film that enabled me to photograph through a hole in a boarded up wall the interior of the Palace Amusements in Asbury Park, NJ. It was the early '90s.

When I was an Electronic Engineering Times reporter, I toured the Eastman Kodak plant in Rochester, NY, interviewing design engineeers about their plans for taking the company from film to silicon. It was the mid-'80s. Even then the disconnect between the visionaries and the executive suite could be detected. Yesterday's news that Eastman Kodak was reorganizing its debt payments to try, again, to figure out how to be a viable American business in the Internet Industry wasn't surprising. "Kodak Files for Bankruptcy Protection"

If I were simply to stick to immediate family history, the easiest acknowledgement about my love for photography goes to my father. He always gave me 25 cents to spend during family vacations, and I quickly learned I could buy 5 photographic views as handy keepsakes that surpassed whatever came out of the family camera (and that usually got filed away under lock and key by my mother). Those who own Greetings From New Jersey: A Postcard Tour of the Garden State know just how far my passion for miniature photos took me.

But where did Dad's love of photography come from? Years ago, and because he was graduated from Littleton (NH) High School, I thought the work of the Kilburn Brothers of stereoptic fame, might have influenced him. After all, their studio in the shutter-happy burg of Littleton produced thousands of stunning views of the White Mountains, and the town location as the gateway to the North Country continues to be a headquarters' location for a number of noted photographers. Plus, Edward Kilburn had studied photography with a Waterford (VT) resident who apparently was known as a daguerreotypist, Ora C. Bolton.

But that history was mid-19th century; I had an old father, but he wasn't ancient. By the time he arrived in Waterford, Mr. Bolton and anyone else practising photography was long gone.

If I had to bet with what I know at this moment, I'd credit George Russell, whom Dad once said was a distant relative, for putting a Kodak Brownie in his hands in 1918. I think he's the same Russell whose work I just discovered archived at a University of Masschausetts's facility: Lowell Center for Lowell History Two letters to Dad show him encouraging my father to take more pictures.

Ironic, considering that most people recognize Bob Pike for the words he left behind. But the Pike Archives tell a different story. Granted, as largely self-taught, he didn't give much thought to composition. His pictures are more snap-and-go, perhaps taken with the knowledge that construction of the Moore Dam would inexorably alter everything in the upper valley from landscape to economics.

Sort of like my early drive-bys of Asbury Park when I never knew what would be standing the next day as developers wrangled over lot and block numbers in the fabled, but faded, residential resort. For now, all my Kodak color slides and prints are filed in boxes for a later project.

It's too soon to tell if the current American way of life is going to disappear forever or if it is merely undergoing an overdue course correction first brought up for public discussion in the summer of 2001. Until we determine that outcome, I will remain grateful for George Russell and George Eastman. Without either man's influence and passion, a lot of history wouldn't have survived.
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