Jon Chopan: The Cancelled Life

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Chopan considers the fall of Kodak, and all that comes with it @ Fringe. “This city was meant to be photographed,” our tour guide tells us.  “A hundred years after the founding of Kodak and the rise of photography as an art and Rochester is still the center of the world for film.”  I expect, on this tour, that we will not hear about layoffs or the digital age or the buildings Kodak is leveling to save money on taxes.  In the slide show we watch there are pictures of all the important landmarks: the brewery, the Erie Canal, both the upper and lower falls.  The documentation is meticulous.  “You know,” our tour guide, says, “the future happened here.”

My father calls me on a Tuesday and says that they are razing some of the Kodak buildings on Friday and would I like to come watch with him.  He is excited by the prospect of the explosion and the precision with which they will take the building down.  A few seconds and it is over and all that is left is a pile, like snow plowed into the corner of a parking lot.

Photographers know no building will stand forever. In a separate room designed to look like the future there are computers showing a history of the Kodak camera over the ages.  It is set up like a peep show, wedding the old and the new, feeding coins, which are set alongside the computers in a basket, into a slot so the film will play.  On screen, pictures of the first Kodak cameras appear and then decade-by-decade the film slides forward.  Every other decade the machine requests another coin.

I am fascinated by the equipment.  In one slide there is the first Kodak camera and in the next a disposable and even further down the line the digital equipment of today.  Watching these screens gives the impression that with every passing year, with every new turn, Kodak has been cutting edge, has never fallen behind the curve.

I am led to believe that the future is happening here, now.


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