Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Preserving Memories

In order to make my catalog of old photographs more accessible, I have been digitizing and filing my old slides and negatives, the ones I made from about 1965 until 2001 when I switched to digital.

The Kodachrome slides all look just like they did when they came back from Kodak. When I was selling film, the understanding was that Kodachrome gave vivid permanent color, but was picky about exposure and even harder to get good prints. Slides were made to be projected. Color negative film was invented to be easy to print with lots of exposure latitude but was not permanent and faded quickly as did the prints made from it.

Black and white film and prints have always been stable which is one reason fine art photographers gravitated toward black and white. If we wanted our photographs to be enjoyed for generations, we shot black and white. There was no other choice. Kodachrome was hard to print involving inter-negatives and other time-consuming techniques such as dye-transfer. Color negative film was not permanent and not even very good.

Now we are in the digital era and everything has changed. Digital files are as permanent as the medium they are stored on. That may be a long time as in the case of a flash drive or it may be extremely short if they are in a smartphone with a life of only two or three years. The only long-term solution is to make archival prints. Ink on paper is still the most permanent media there is.

Ansel Adams is famous for saying, “The negative is the score, the print is the performance.” I contend that this is still true, especially if we consider that the final “print” might be in a magazine or on a web page. The digital file has replaced the negative.

In the modern era we are able to bring back those faded color prints made from color negatives, repair damaged black and white images, but even more exciting is the fact that we can make prints from Kodachrome slides that are better and more permanent than any processes that were available when Kodachrome was being made. If I had known what advances in photography the digital era would bring, I would have shot more Kodachrome 40 or 50 years ago.

From 1973 until 1996 we owned a custom black and white photo lab dedicated to making the highest quality black and white prints possible. Since 2008, I have turned that dedication to quality to digital imaging, especially restoring old, faded or damaged slides, negatives, and prints. 

If you have photographs that need attention, that you want to pass on to future generations, please call. 913-269-6709.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Generational Segregation

Generational Segregation

A few years ago, I was having lunch with a friend in a well-known restaurant. I looked around and noticed that we were the youngest people there. The next day I was having lunch with another friend in another restaurant and realized that we were the oldest people at that place. I hadn't realized until that week how segregated by age our lives have become.

A few generations ago, in a more agrarian and less specialized society, generations often worked together in the fields or in the shops. Young people learned from their elders and older people benefited from the enthusiasm and energy of younger people. Today older people are often unwilling or unable to share their years of wisdom, and all too often younger people do not seek it out, or discount the idea that they may have much to share.

Since I have become aware of this situation, I have made a concerted effort not become one of the "old-gray-beards" that sit around and complain about everything. I started reading books written by younger authors and subscribed to magazines that are clearly aimed at millennials.

We later changed churches to a congregation with attendees with an average age at least twenty-five years younger than our previous church. This means making friends and developing strong relationships with people much younger than we are is far easier than before.

This has been extremely encouraging.The generation of people born between 1978 and 1998 are some of the best yet. Not only are they comfortable with technology (it is normal to them and not novel like it is to me), but they are highly energetic and capable leaders. They value relationships and see kindness as important in all areas of life.

There is great value in maintaining long-term relationships with friends and co-workers, and family we have enjoyed for many years.There is, however, a need to recognize the value in crossing age barriers that our culture wants to build around us to experience life at its best, with all age groups represented for all that they can add to our life.

I just want to live long enough to see what happens next.

Jim Mathis

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

World History and Western Movement

The study of world history reveals an interesting pattern. The center of thought, creativity, innovation, and understanding is slowly moving west.

Starting about 1,000 years ago, China was the center of innovation. The Song Dynasty Chinese invented paper, paper money, gunpowder, a process for making fine porcelain that will still call “China,” and a host of other everyday things.

Slowly the center of creativity moved to the Arab world. The Arabs wrote the first medical textbooks after getting paper making from the Chinese. They developed higher mathematics. An Arab named al Jebra invented a system of math based on balance and equations that was named after him: “algebra.” We get our modern numerals and numbering system from them.

Eventually, the center of culture shifted westward again to Italy with people like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The Medici family invented the modern banking system. Further west and a hundred years saw the invention of the printing press in Western Europe and artists like Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms; musical instruments like the piano and organ and painters like Rembrandt came along and theologians like Martin Luther. 
Still later, Great Britain became the heart of the industrial revolution with the invention of the steam engine, railroads and mass production. The British Empire spanned the globe due their economic strength.

By the twentieth century it was the United States’ turn with advances in electric lighting and electronic communications. The US invented Jazz and Rock and Roll and forged ahead in space travel. Artists like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol thrived. Advances in civil rights and education made the twentieth century the Golden Age for the United States.

In the twenty-first century the US is slowly turning its back on education and creativity. Intellectuals are called elitist or nerds, education and the arts are being marginalized, and innovation is slowing to a halt.

Meanwhile the center for learning and creativity continues to move west with China, Japan, and South Korea once again emerging as the world leaders in education, manufacturing, and design. If the thousand-year-old pattern continues, the Far East will dominate world thinking for another hundred years or so.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Library Lets Loose

Thomas Jefferson said that a well educated populous was essential to a functioning democracy. Ben Franklin established the first US lending library in Philadelphia and the first library supported by tax payers was in New Hampshire in 1833.

Recent research has shown what most of us already knew. That a person with a wide knowledge on a variety of subjects, who is well read, is more creative and makes better decisions and has demonstrably better brain functions than someone with only specific knowledge on one subject or a person with more limited experiences. Obviously, reading improves your brain.

I was fortunate to fall in love with public libraries at an early age and have been a supporter of libraries all of my life. I became a regular patron of the Johnson County Library when I moved here in 1974. More recently the Johnson County Library has become a client.

Last Saturday, October 14, was the annual fundraiser for the Johnson County Library Foundation and Friends of the Library - "The Library Lets Loose."

There was great food supplied by area restaurants, music, art, and even a poetry stage. My good friend, Dave Cedillo, was there as a performance artist. My friends "Betse & Clark" played, as did another great band, "My Brothers and Sisters."

I posted a number of photos on my gallery site:

Here is the direct link to the "Library Lets Loose" photos.

Please take a look and support your public library. And more importantly, read every thing you can.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Vinyl LP Records

I have a few thousand LP's. For you younger folks that would be "vinyl." For you older folks, "records." The correct term is LP for Long Playing records. Vinyl LP records came out in the mid 1950's and were replaced with CD's in the mid 1980's. That means that all of the music recorded in the classical era of rock and country was originally released on vinyl records.

The advantage of CD's was that they were cheaper to make and could be sold at a premium price, so the profit was much higher. A side benefit was that the manufacturing process was more consistent, so on the average, the sound quality was better. They were also easier to handle and store than LP's and CD players could be made smaller and shake resistant so they could be installed in automobiles. The down side for us visual artist types was that the cover art of a 5 inch CD was less than a fourth the size of a 12 inch LP.
So now I have thousands of vinyl records, all of which I have owned for over 30 years, that I am trying to decide if I should digitize. When people call for a quote to digitize all of their old slides or negatives, I ask them why they want to do that. If it is to preserve them, I usually talk them out of it because they already have a permanent original. If it is for easy access, great. Digital is much easier to share, print, or use in a publication.

It is the same decision I need to make with my old records. The original vinyl records are valuable artifacts, but if I want an easier way to access, share, or listen to music, having the whole collection cataloged on a hard drive would be amazing. Having all that music on a USB drive to play in my car would also be very cool.

Just need a few hundred spare hours to get this completed. Wonder when that will be?

Monday, October 09, 2017

My Birthday

As I celebrate living on this planet another year and life's odometer ticks over another digit, it is good to glance in the rearview mirror to see where I've been and maybe look out the windshield to see what is ahead.

For one thing, I have been blessed to share the road with an amazing woman for 47 years. Together we have seen a lot of places, met a lot of wonderful people, and heard some really cool music. I have read hundreds of books and have written a handful as well. I have also written a few half-way decent songs.
I have spent my life making photographs and have tens of thousands of them in my files, which mean several hundred of them are pretty good.

I now realize that I have clothes in my closet older than some of my friends. I remember when gasoline was a quarter a gallon, but two hours of work still would barely get you a hundred miles down the road. But what matters is that I have worked hard and traveled a lot of miles. The people I have met along the way have made life worth living.

For the majority of my life I have been a follower of Jesus. I take His life and teaching seriously - love God, love one another, seek joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.

I now know that there are more miles in the rearview mirror than through the windshield. The Bible doesn't say anything about retiring, but it does say for the older people to teach the younger. As we get a few miles on us, teaching what we have learned to those behind us becomes our most important job.

The road ahead looks bright. Storms, roadblocks and detours are sure to come, but we press on toward the final destination. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Khan Academy

Our education normally starts when we are about 3 or 4 years old with our parents reading to us. If they do this regularly, we develop a love of books and a love of learning which gives us a running start for school. Elementary age through high school we develop basic skills in reading, writing, math, science, and an introduction to things like history and geography. A college degree demonstrates that we are willing and able to learn.  
The real indicator of success in life is a desire for continued education and life-long learning. The government appreciates this fact to the point that we can take a tax deduction for tuition, get cash back credit for college expenses, and are allowed legitimate business deductions for continued education costs.
 Followers of Jesus know that his full-time occupation was as a teacher. He taught in synagogues, small groups, and spoke at large seminars and conferences. Any place there were people willing to hear, he was willing to teach.   
Through much of history, education was elusive and a mark of class distinction. Now educational opportunities are available to everyone. Every community of any size has a library and most of the world's knowledge is available at our fingertips. All we need is an internet connection and a device to connect.
The internet age has proven that access to knowledge is not enough though, we have to have a conscientious plan, a desire to learn, and wise discernment. 
One outstanding resource is Khan Academy. Salmon Khan started tutoring his cousin in math and ended up developing an online college with thousands of classes on a huge variety of subjects available free of charge. I am currently taking a class on World History and have Art History and Macroeconomics coming up. I am really enjoying it.    
Proverbs 2:10-12 says, "You will become wise, and your knowledge will give you pleasure. Your insight and understanding will protect you and prevent you from doing the wrong thing." Can't get any plainer than that.