Monday, August 04, 2008
One hour photo - for now
San Francisco, CA, July 2008
I'm just old enough to remember photography in the pre-digital era. The process was as simple as it was time-honored:
First, you bought film. Then you took pictures oh so sparingly because this stuff was expensive. Then you took your precious film to the photo lab and waited for them to develop it. You'd fill in the envelope, slip the film inside, seal it carefully and then drop it in the box and wait. And wait. And wait some more. It usually took a week, sometimes more. Occasionally it would get lost. And when your phone rang with the good news that your film was back, you gleefully skipped back to the store to pick it up. More often than not, your trembling fingers would already have ripped the envelope open before you had gotten out of the store.
Ah, the good old days of photography.
Then along came one-hour processing. Because our emerging hurry-up-and-wait world lacked the patience to hold its breath for a week while film canisters made their way to and from distant labs. Oh sure, we could still get the old, slow processing if we really wanted it. But why bother when for a 50% price premium, we could have it almost now? A new industry was born. Fotomat became indelibly burned into 1970s culture - such as it was - and a whole slew of ever-faster service options began to litter the consumer landscape. Drive-through banking, anyone?
Digital has, of course, turned one-hour photo services into quaint reminders of the way things used to be. Sure, people still shoot film. And digital photographers continue to rely on stores for high-quality, ridiculously cheap prints. While it's possible to print them at home now, the per-page costs make trips to the Walgreens a necessity when it's time to turn those bits into something a little more physical.
So as I walked along a San Francisco street and saw this sign, I had to stop and wonder how long the sign would still be there. Did the term have any meaning for the teens and twentysomethings taking pictures with their cameraphones? I doubt it. I wonder how many other demographically iconic phrases are also heading for obsolescence.
Your turn: OK, I realize that last sentence really was a question. What other phrases, sayings, businesses, trademarks or whatever are going the way of the dodo? Things like full-service gas stations, record stores, free HBO....do tell!
One more thing: The good folks here at Written Inc. continue to whore themselves limitlessly to boost participation in the two weekly extravaganzas, Caption This and Thematic Photographic. Hit the links to ensure you don't miss out.