by Skip Cohen
A whole lot of years ago I started in the photo industry with an amazing group of guys in the emulsion development group at Polaroid. I was just out of college, actually on academic suspension, after being every parent's worst nightmare. (I went back to school at night years later.) There were no jobs anywhere and Time Magazine that summer had a picture of a college grad in cap and gown pumping gas.
It was my start in photography and involved some of the greatest people I've ever worked with. I can't help but wonder where they all are today...Charlie, Ron, Frank, Joe, Joey, Willy, Smitty, Big Gene, Ronnie - the list goes on and on. Polaroid at that time had 23,000 employees world wide and Ali McGraw was the celebrity in their TV commercials for the Polaroid Swinger.
Polaroid was incredibly healthy. They made a whole series of different films, all of them peel apart. SX-70 wouldn't come along for another six years. And, Kodak was the only brand of non-instant film anybody seriously considered. In fact, their colors for their consumer films were so saturated, we used to say "Kodak makes your vacation look better than it really was!"
Bell-bottoms, platform shoes and an Afro were all the look for yours truly. I looked like I should have been in the cast of "Hair" - not working in a research lab. Photography was hot, but I was more excited about my Super 8 movie camera! Anybody really interested in photography dreamed about owning a Leica or a Hasselblad.
When I got married we got an album of 25 8x10s and for $65 the photographer sold me the proofs. The album is filled with special effects, especially the ever popular starburst filter in front of a candle or two.
I remember a gas crisis in the early 70s and one of the guys I worked with waiting in line at the pump for over an hour before realizing he was in line for a funeral procession - NOT the line for the gas station.
Times might have been different, but the enthusiasm we all had for life, our jobs, our families is still the same. While I'd like to think of them as the "good old days" I'm having too much fun right now.
That leads me to think that the "good old days" are whenever you take the time to appreciate them. I know that years from now I'm going to look back and the "good old days" are going to be 2013 with friends from this year's Summer Session, various conventions and the pure fun of things we're all working on now.
It reminds me of Don Blair and I just used this quote recently - when asked what the best photograph he'd ever taken was, answered, "I don't know I haven't taken it yet!" So, in answer to somebody asking me, "So, when were the good old days?" My answer has to be, "I don't know, they're still happening!"
Enjoy today and appreciate the fact that no matter how tough your business is right now you have the power to make it whatever you want it to be - not without work and not without the risk of disappointment and change- but still within your power! The good old days might just be this week!
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