Digital Cameras Can Cause Blindness
May 8, 2003
I noticed this sign in front of a camera shop here in Manhattan a few weeks ago and remembered to take a picture of it the last time I walked by. "Digital Cameras Can Cause Blindness". It's of course a not-very-funny joke from a shop that develops film images, railing against the changes overtaking their business. They've got other signs up, too, "Digital Cameras Can Cause Stroke" and a host of other maladies, including strokes, sterility, sudden death, and the dreaded "poor quality photos"
Not really funny enough to stand on their own, and not really biting enough to be effective, the signs made me kind of sad. There are plenty of reasons to favor film cameras, if you're into that sort of thing, but none of them reflect poorly on digital cameras. They're just two different ranges of products with different (pre-pun cringe) focuses.
So why sadness at reading the signs? Because I was struck by the fact that this storefront marked the effort of an entrepreneur who ostensibly has an established business, but is so unwilling to accommodate the demands of his customers that he mocks and derides their choices instead of indulging their wants. (Note to female entrepreneurs: I say "he" in describing the theoretical entrepreneur because not only is this a particularly "male" response to the situation, but the store is in Chelsea, where approximately 170% of all stores are owned by men.)
Most people I know who are really into photography (the kind who would go to a store like this instead of getting their prints from a drug store) have both digital and film cameras, and use both in their arsenal of equipment. But for me, as a dabbler, I'm always going to choose digital. Fewer recurring costs, and it's easier to share pictures since almost everybody I care about is online. This guy could sell me a memory card, though. Or a spare battery. Or a carrying case. But he doesn't want to.
The broader point, I suppose, is that there are people who embrace change, and see it as an opportunity. I'd always assumed that those were the people who became entrepreneurs and tried to build businesses. People who are, for whatever reason, more risk averse would choose a more conservative employment path. But this is someone who seems to have a business, but doesn't have the heart or the backbone to do what it takes to make that business a success.
Some combination of hubris and conservativism and fear of what's new made them willing to publicly advertise their contempt for today, and their denial about tomorrow, and I wish there were a way to make people understand that sometimes the word "unfamiliar" just describes something terrific that you just haven't met yet.
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