Celebrating 40 Years of Photographs: Looking Back (and Forward!)

Lawrence Camera Grand Reopening and 40th Anniversary

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our store in Springfield—and the grand reopening after our renovations—I’ve been thinking a lot about change. Once upon a time, our little store was swimming in film canisters and negatives. Now we’re chockablock with high-tech tools that the man who started it all, Charles Lawrence, probably could never have fathomed.

Photography itself has undergone extraordinary changes. (Who knew four decades ago that we’d all be snapping pictures with our phones one day?) No longer is the top-shelf camera the only way to take a truly beautiful photograph. Gone are the days of slide carousels. Instant results are thanks to LCD screens instead of Polaroids. Cameras are smaller and more portable than ever. I can’t begin to list the breadth and depth of technological advances. I’m just happy we’ve played our part in what the best photographers of decades past predicted. Photography today is so much closer to what they thought it should be.

In 1944, When Eliot Elisofon, an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, was asked what he thought photography would be like in the post-war era, one of the things he said was, “It is possible to perfect the camera to the point where it will become an automatic instrument which will focus, expose and process the film by the mere push of a button.” Prescient, right? His contemporary, Bernice Abbot, a photographer famed for her photos of NYC architecture, didn’t have predictions as much as requests. She wanted technological innovators to resolve the limitations of the equipment of the day—for example, a good way to capture tonality throughout a photo, even those with complex lighting. Basically she was wishing for what HDR and photo-editing software now deliver! Pretty much all the things she wished for have come to fruition.

Just as today’s photographers are living the dreams of yesterday’s photographers, I feel like we at Lawrence are living the dreams of our predecessors, too. Our namesake, Charles Lawrence, who opened the first Kodak franchise west of the Mississippi 85 years before our descendant store opened here in Springfield, would be proud.

In our fast-moving, increasingly digital, increasingly interconnected world, I can’t help but wonder what the next 40 years will bring for photography. If Annie Leibovitz is to be trusted, it’s all of you—and not your equipment—that are going to be the biggest force now:

“What is going to happen now is that we are the sensitive matter. You, the photographer, are the sensitive matter. What makes an impression on you is what will been seen. In this day and age of things moving so, so fast, we still long for things to stop, and we as a society love the still image.”

—Annie Leibovitz, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, June 2013

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