The year was 1984 and the Digital Age was just dawning, it seemed everywhere except at the Eastman Kodak Company.
A passion for creating images, my fascination with the creative potential of the computer and a new position at Kodak all came together at this point in time. Setting me upon my decades long journey of exploration, into new digital mediums.
I purchased one of the original Macintosh 128K computers, in June of 1984. Obstensibly, I was looking for a way to create professional looking documents for my part-time freelance photo business. In reality, I was also looking for a tool that might be used for creating short animations. I wasn't sure that the first PC's I looked would do the job, then I saw the Mac. I knew from that first moment, when the sales guy lassoed that sneaker in MacPaint and dragged it around the screen, that this little machine had enormous potential for creative applications (at least once some software was written for it).
After I graduated from RIT in 1980, earning my BFA in Photo Illustration, (and after five years working as a Kodak janitor, while doing so), I took a new position as a photo technician in Kodak's Consumer Test Lab at the Elmgrove plant. For the next five years I tested consumer film cameras, shooting them, evaluating the resulting photos, testing flash output, freezing, heating and humidizing them, drop testing them, and actuating them. Those film cameras included the Instamatic 126 series, the 110 series, the Instant Film cameras, some 35mm cameras and the infamous Disc camera, which was launched during that time. The Disc it the one camera, I refused to evaluate photos from, because I would have failed every single one on image quality. Towards the end of my time there, we began to test the first 8mm camcorders for the new Consumer Electronics Division. It was a harbinger of a new direction.
In 1985, I took a new position as a color technician with CED, working on a new video printer that used Kodak's Instant color film. I was assigned to an engineer to help figure out how to calibrate the video printer as it came off the line. I was selected for the job because it was known that I was a home color printer and had done printing work for the Elmgrove photo studio. For my home darkroom enlarger, I had purchased one of the first Beseler Color Computer Heads, which precisely measured color output with photo sensors. I suggested using photo sensors placed at the film plane to measure Red, Green and Blue output from the video tube, just as my enlarger did. This seemed like it was going to work, however the Instant Film itself, varied so widely in color tint from print to print, that it really was impossible to calibrate. No matter though, in January of 1986, Polaroid won it's suit against Kodak and the project was killed. The team tried to persuade management to let us switch to a 35mm camera, to no avail.
I became an original member of Kodak's brand new Electronic Photography Division, when the Consumer Electronics Division was renamed shortly after. This would put me in the right place, at the right time, to witness photographic history in the making. Here I not only observed, but actively participated in the painful process of taking cutting edge technologies and turning them into many of the digital imaging products that we now take for granted. At that time though, Kodak was pursuing an analog imaging path, based on video broadcast standards and the ill fated Still Video Floppy.
However, by this time, I'd already been scanning photos into my home Mac for nearly a year, and saw the coming convergence of computers and imaging, as few others at Kodak did. My developing skills as a computer illustrator, would lead to my role as the primary document creator and conceptual artist for EPD's Advanced Development Group. I had a Mac on my work desk, when few others in the division were even using PC's. Only managers and a few software engineer had PC's, at the time. I was tasked with creating illustrations, timelines, overheads, protocol documents, requirements documents, software flow diagrams, interface designs and many other documents throughout the remainder of the 80's. I also was encouraged to began drafting my own product proposals, which I did quite frequently. Soon, I was given my own little skunk works, a small lab and a budget to buy interestng digital imaging equipment and explore digital imaging system applicaations and provide solutions.
A CD-ROM full of MacPaint, MacWrite, MacDraw, Word, Illustrator, and Pagemaker files (my backups) from that period has enabled me to begin to tell the story of how digital imaging evolved at Kodak. Conveniently, the computer had nicely time stamped each file at the moment of it's creation, providing the necessary timeline for me to share that story now.
The story also highlights the extremely difficult struggle we faced trying to impart our vision of the future of photography, upon the Kodak corporate hierarchy. A culture that has proven over the years to be highly resisitant to change.
My digital history is packed with pictures, illustrations, descriptions and stories of the hardware and software products I've had an opportunity to work, play and beta test over the years. There are also product proposals, product designs, concept illustrations and even art pieces that I have created using many of these early digital products, including some very early digital images, animations, digitizer samples, Hypercard stacks, and more.
For almost two and a half decades now, I've been surfing the waves of cutting-edge technologies in digital imaging. From a variety of roles in quality assurance, systems analysis, product development, software design, educational development, and technical support, all which provided me access to the latest hardware and software tools.
That access allowed me, during my "leisure" hours, to explore the creative possibilities that these many tools offered. Visit my Virtual Gallery where you can view my images, many of which were created over the course of thousands of very late nights.
After twenty-seven years at Kodak, I decided it was time to move on. Digital photography was now a mature technology (no longer exciting) and with the closure of Dynamic Imaging (lenticular imaging group) there was little left that offered a challenge and would be enjoyable work. I also had a growing sense that Kodak was in deep trouble. In September of 2001, I left Kodak so that I could devote all my time to doing what I love, making 3D images.
These days I'm focusing on creating 3D lenticular art and converting older digital works of mine for 3D presentation. However, it is an expensive and resource intensive process that has taken me the last few years to achieve a suitable solution for presentation. Thanks to new print materials and LED technology the materials are finally at hand. I've had ten display built and have begun showing the work. Check out my 3D Lenticular Gallery to see some of the completed displays.