x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Farewell to a snappy era

I'll never forget the thrill of being given my first disposable camera as a child; with its tactile winding spool and reassuring click, I was hooked.

Business news doesn't normally provoke an emotional response in me, but when I heard this month that the once market-dominant Eastman Kodak had filed for bankruptcy, it touched a nerve.

If you stopped and asked a hundred people, from Dubai to Chiang Mai, what they would save from a burning building, guaranteed most of them would say photographs. I am no different and there's little I would clamber over hot coals to preserve, save a selection of snaps.

Whether it's the grainy picture of my great grandparents standing outside our family home, or my grandparents' sepia pre-war wedding photo, or forgotten holiday images of my brother and I exploring the banks of Norwegian fjords - they're frequently flicked through or otherwise safely vacuum-packed.

Kodak played a major part in capturing these moments and I'll never forget the thrill of being given my first disposable camera as a child; with its tactile winding spool and reassuring click, I was hooked.

Not being the most patient of children, I could hardly contain my excitement a few years later when the US manufacturer brought out the sadly ill-fated Kodamatic camera. Family gatherings, weddings in particular, proved the perfect opportunity for me to hone my crash-zoom skills and saw me frequently chased by adults intent on confiscating the incriminating device.

Nostril shots, red eyes and blurred limbs aplenty - it's fair to say I was no Leibovitz, but perfect composition was never my goal. Creativity aside and clearly without a comprehension of the cost, I would frivolously plough through packs of film, mesmerised by the camera's capacity to freeze time and deliver me the evidence a mere four seconds later.

Proving this to be a family obsession, my father took things to an entirely different level by frequently rigging our dining room with floodlights and a makeshift white sheet. With the heavy velvet curtains drawn to obscure all light, the space proved the perfect studio and the ultimate dark room. As reward for my brother and I having been instructed to "sit up straight" and "look at the lens" for hours on end, the chemical magic show that followed and brought the images to life never disappointed.

But alas, one has to move with the times and I must admit to having embraced the digital age with gusto. And although the shutter seems to have closed on Kodak's era, the memories it captured will forever be anything but gone in a flash.

rduane@thenational.ae

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