Holly Gordon: My Ode to Kodak or “Owed” to Kodak

My origins are rooted with Kodak. To say that I was born with a Kodak reflex camera around my neck is a hyperbole, but when I was five years old, my father placed a Kodak Reflex camera around my neck, who said, “ Hold it against your belly, look into the viewfinder and when you are ready to take a picture hold your breath and snap.” I walked around with that camera, constantly documenting my world…and sometimes I even had film in it. There was such a thrill of anticipation as my little fingers split the paper wrapper and threaded the film onto the sprocket…what joy!

That camera is a most cherished possession and sits close to me in my office today. It looks so much smaller than it did when I was five.  I wish I could still get film for it – my T-Max just doesn’t fit. But no matter…Kodak is inexorably woven in my being. My dad set up a darkroom in our bathroom. Oh, the aroma of those Kodak chemicals and viewing the contact strips he made was pure magic…and those sensations led me into every darkroom I have worked in! I wish those early photographs survived….but the camera and memories do.


Years later, in 1991 to be exact, I took a two-week black and white photography course at the Maine Photographic Workshop in Rockport, Maine with Steve Bliss, the now-head of photography, at Savannah School of Art and Design. I created a self-portrait with an assemblage of Kodak film and developing reels. I called it The Kodak Smile….and that was at least 10 years before Kodak saw my Antarctica photographs printed on Kodak Metallic paper and invited me to become a Kodak Professional Partner.

To add to the serendipitous events in my life, during the summer of 2011, I ran into Steve Bliss in Provence where Savannah School of Art and Design has a satellite program. That’s how I discovered he had been made head of the photography department… and to think that 20 years later our paths intersected….like magic!



Kodak is integrally woven into my creative roots, was instrumental in defining me as an artist and will always be part of me.

The words of T.S Eliot from The Four Quartets sum up, so appropriately, my relationship with Kodak:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”


In my early years of photography my subjects were flowers and butterflies and I searched for perfect specimen. Unconsciously or subconsciously, I composed beyond the flower or butterfly, aiming and focusing on the entire frame because the background had to complement the subject to make the image work.  How I chose to see and compose resonated with others because it was those early butterflies that brought attention from the press and the public.


As I travel the world Kodak, film fills my camera bag…to the Falkland Islands and Antarctica and to Australia and New Zealand, Europe, South America….


Wanting to wiggle my way into a newspaper project, I purchased my first digital camera and began shooting with it so I could say I was experienced….but Kodak film, especially T-MAX 100 and TMAX 400 continue to dominate my camera bags.


I am still running as fast as I can…and so is my slide and film scanner…translating my precious chromes and negs into digital files for printing purposes.  Kodak is ever-present in my heart, viewfinder and printed image.


Every time I see the Kodak brand, be it in China, France…anywhere…it gets documented…and I smile knowing that all is well with the world of photography because I am not alone. Photographers world-wide still choose to shoot with film.


Kodak is part of my past, present and future and photography, for me, is the synthesis of my love-affair with life. Thank you, Kodak, for providing me with the means to capture, document, and share my journey.



24 thoughts on “Holly Gordon: My Ode to Kodak or “Owed” to Kodak

  1. and those are the words of a very special friend and mentor……way to share dear Holly….you never cease to amaze and teach me! AMG


  2. I fully enjoyed reading about your origins and that Kodak’s influence continues to reside within you today. I love that you document evidence of Kodak throughout the world—and that upon seeing the famed yellow and red logo, you see part of yourself. A marvelous, reflective tribute, Holly. Many thanks!


  3. You bring back memories, also linked to that great twin lens camera. I recall my father’s Kodak reflex, and still have a very few prints taken with it in the later 1940s, but alas the camera is long gone. Very rarely, as 4 or 5 years old, he let me hold it and actually push the gray shutter button in to take some of those pictures. Maybe that’s why a favorite of mine is a twin lens Rolleiflex (film for which is still available, so far!).
    Best regards,


  4. Holly, your blog, your memories bring a smile to my face and a longing to explore as you do. However, the part that touched me most was your recall of the simple acts your father did for you. He opened the world for you. Keep spreading that word too. Thanks!


    • The ARTS were invented because of the human need to express beyond the ordinary…and we each touch lives by sharing our art with others…you through poetry and me through photography. I used to tell my students that art is essential to life because it is the center of eARTh and in everyone’s heART.


  5. Love the anecdotes about Uncle SId. I never knew that part of your story…way before I was born! But I can picture him teaching you those early techniques. And we are all so enriched by what that early seed has flowered to become. Beautiful Blog, Cuz!


  6. It’s a big world out there and Holly takes us on a journey from our street corner to the remote corners of the world with pictures that make it all real.


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  9. Holly
    How wonderful to received your email and recopllection of your summers at The Workshops. This is the institution’s 40th anniversary, and I’m holding a birthday party on August 9th in Camden. Be there. Lots of people from the 70s, 80s, and 90s will be there as well. I enjoyed your collection of Kodak signs. I have a photo of a Kodak sign over to a street in Venice, where we resided for 2 weeks on a workshops with Alison Shaw in 2008. Great reminder of a major part of Photography’s history, and the changing nature of technology and image-making itself. My best.
    David Lyman, Founder and Director, The Maine Photographic Workshops.


    • David!!!! so fantastically fabulous to hear from you and know you read my blog. It just goes to show that Kodak film continues to be a presence in this changing time and you and The Main Photographic Workshops are key players in photography.Oh, that camera offers so many possibilities!

      Alas, I will be in Chicago when you celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Maine Photographic Workshops. If Richard Brown attends, please give him my warmest regards. the color landscape class my late husband and I took with him catapulted me out of the darkroom and into the plein air. You are all part of the ongoing evolution of Holly Gordon Photographer. Thank you and warmest best wishes, Holly



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    • Thanks Ward! I’ve been scouring my files for items to use on infographic cv for our artist-in-residence and decided to include this blog that Kodak published a couple of years ago. Origins are still origins no matter how far we travel…and I hope to ravel up to you tomorrow:)


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