Missing The Real Story

When all you see is racism, you’ll miss the real story. Recently, Tested posted this.


Apparently the Vox video came from this.


Which claimed because the skin tones were set for white people on the “Shirley” cards that Kodak must have been run by a bunch of guys in hoods who conspired somehow to make the pictures of black people look bad.  Somehow the fact that film responds to light poorly when it’s very bright or very dark escaped her.  Or that if she has dark skin issues she should tried shooting up a stop or so.

Now I know that Norm didn’t mean to, but he sort of pushed one of my buttons.  See my dad’s father was sort of  in charge of the facility that Kodak used to produce the film when color was a new thing.  I’ve also been hearing stories about Kodak for my entire  life.  So I sort of know a little about the real problems involved here.

Here’s a webpage explaining how film responds to light.


And another one.


One thing that’s obvious is that a film’s response to light is not linear.  Now this is significant for single color B&W photos, but even more so for color photography with it’s three layers that needed to be exposed.  Getting color at all was NOT an easy thing to do and Kodak spent a tremendous effort to get color on a single ribbon of film.


Recently I scanned a bunch of my grandfather, H Clyde Carlton’s slides for the family.  I’m going to use some of them to try to show what was really going on with color film.  One thing above all else that I’ve learned is that the people who worked at Kodak were dedicated to photography and Kodak.  I also know that Kodak was very progressive in terms of race and very attentive to it’s international customers and the development of it’s brand.  Racist, not hardly.

I’m going Lead off with this picture.

4 men in house

This four young students from Asia being entertained by Kodak, and presumably being recruited all POC.

1950 florida highway patrol

I’m guessing either my grandfather was trying for a picture for extreme coloring, or he liked Police cars.  With him you never know. FL, 1958

1950 rancher

A Florida rancher again 1958.

1951 engineering slideshow 7

The creation of film involved continuous process improvement as this slide and the others in the set showed.  Power Point before computers

1956 corrosion 1

They also had to deal with corrosion issues in the equipment.

1956 susan patte

My Grandfather used friends and family as color Guinea pigs.

1958 longwood gardens model

As well as professional models.  I don’t know if this was a Kodak shoot or just a target opportunity.  this was a Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia

1958 orchids 1

As was these orchids

well dressed lady

This lady is from the same set as above.

man with chickens

I wondered why my grandfather took this photo in the BVI.  It may have been just a travel shot, but he may have been palying around with light and dark skin.

1958 mrs gb

Again light and dark.

1958 musicians BVI

Musicians in the BVI, dark skin at night.

My grandfather also shot may pictures at night or dark lighting conditions.

1956 chinatown at night

In Chinatown.

1958 lights

Longwood Gardens light show.

1961 rockettes nyc

The Rockettes

1961 times sq nyc 2

And Times Square

1961 empire state bldg

As well as NYC in daylight.

I think that these pictures show pretty clearly that racism was not in the minds of the people who were creating the film that just about everybody used.  I think that it is wrong to make an accusation based on the flimsiest of evidence based on pictures on color correction cards.  I’ve posted pictures here of people with all sorts of skin tones from light to very dark and I don’t see any that are off color.  And my grandfather was by no means very skilled as a photographer.  Now it may be that the slides posted here were adjusted in the lab, but I have done no adjustment or post to correct on what I posted here.  The people at Kodak worked very hard to make color work for everybody and to use the term racist, it just slandering those great people who are now by and large passed from the scene.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s