I am Jack’s all-defining viewfinder.
I am Jack’s carefully chosen aperture.
I am Jack’s corrupted raw file.
I am Jack’s torn film perforation.
I am Jack’s meticulously chosen Instagram filter.
Cheap David Fincher and “Fight Club” references, but appropriate.
David Fincher’s dark, twisted and sometimes-sardonic artistic signature is, undoubtedly, one of my favorites.
I consider myself an enthusiast of both photography and cinema. Obviously, I’m also a writer. Starting a column where I can channel my interests through the written word was only so obvious.
My goal for Exposure is to feature some of the most intriguing folks working in those specific fields of photography and cinema, and who also have a tie to the region. But, not only to simply promote, like a boring advertisement or press release (e.g., He takes whimsical, stunning images of the American countryside. He’s working on an amazing project right now called Country Proud. Visit his website! And so on) but rather, this column’s goal and hopeful purpose is to go much further beyond the basics.
I want to encapsulate readers and cause them to open their minds and evoke wonder and questioning of these beautiful, widely celebrated art forms. What makes an artist’s mind tick?; Why did they make a specific choice that produced a certain result?; What was the mental path that was taken in order to produce such a result?; and much more. This column will explore all cinema and photography related mediums, whether it be a rising filmmaker with expensive equipment or a kid with a smartphone and a sharp eye.
My journey starts with a renowned Williamsport citizen; for thirty-some years he has been the go-to for “all things photographic” and Hoyer’s – his camera shop – has been for even longer.
My appointment is to meet Rob Colley, Hoyer’s owner, at 9 a.m. I’m early; I park off the side of the street with my iced coffee and bagel. To be frank, I have no idea really what direction I want to go with this – I was just going on a gut feeling – a feeling that told me that starting this little venture of mine (this column) with Hoyer’s was a good idea.
Naturally, being the “hipster” that I am, the first thing I do is Instagram a shot of the side of Hoyer’s building. (I think by Internet standards, it’s generally okay to use social media names as verbs.) Fittingly, I use the Rise filter.
The morning light is shining down Packer Street, hitting the new Hoyer’s sign just right. The sign was hung at the end of August, designed by the shop’s employees, Whitnie-Rae Mays and Spencer Healey. The sign incorporates Colley’s actual handwriting, cleaned up in Adobe Illustrator by the two. I imagine I’m probably the first to put Hoyer’s new face on Instagram.
“Hi sunshine! How are you doing?” Colley greets, after I had waited for about fifteen minutes. I was completely fine with waiting though, because the waiting was due to customers who had showed up right as his doors opened, ill cameras in-hand.
I’m thrilled to see people still taking their equipment to the local camera shop and not sending it out online, as many people now do. Colley stood, patiently giving his expert advice to each person, as if he knows them and their camera on a personal level.
For many photo enthusiasts, their camera is an extension of them and is treated as such. If it’s sick, it should see a doctor. Having been a photographer himself since he was a child, and turning it into his career, it’s safe to not only say that Colley’s cameras are extensions of himself, but rather photography is just a part of his life.
So the (digital) single-lens reflex surgeon gives his advice to these folks and their sick cameras. He looks inside and out, doing what he can in-store and sending it out if he can’t.
The variety of the few people that were in the room that morning was really interesting and put things into perspective a little bit; not just the generalized, stereotypical artist-looking types are photographers.
“I remember this from last time,” Colley told the guy in the worn, N.R.A. STAND AND FIGHT hat, and equally worn cowboy boots and stained Dickies work jeans. Colley knew just what to do.
Hoyer’s has been offering that I-know-just-what-to-do camera service for 78 years. It was Colley’s great-aunt and uncle who started the original Hoyer’s photography service in 1935. It had been at the West Fourth Street location since 1946.
Unfortunately, all that’s left at that location is dust, a few old Nikon stickers in the window and a long-out-of-commission film drop off slot. Someone even took the liberty of writing RIP FILM in the dirt on the windows. A sad sight indeed, for those that cherish Williamsport’s – and analog photography’s – historical pasts.
The new location is a good one though, revitalized. At 45 Washington Blvd., Hoyer’s sits right on the corner. They left the old building in February of 2012 and moved to Washington Boulevard in January. Papers strewn and organization still coming together, the store is still getting on its feet.
But people are still coming. Partly, Colley thinks, because of the familiarity of the Hoyer’s name – a reason he kept it, rather than re-naming it, when he moved the location.
Hoyer’s relocation was initiated when an unfortunate need to lay off an employee arose. After that, the business seemed to take a turn, and, according to Colley, other employees couldn’t come to agreements to fill the time acquired from being down a person. Colley thinks, at that point, his father, Robert Colley Sr., was frustrated and wanted to retire from it all and ultimately just let the building go.
But customers clearly aren’t ready to let Hoyer’s go.
“We seem to fill a niche,” Rob said. Just recently, he tried helping a lady get photos off of her computer tablet – something he hadn’t had to work with before. People coming in with their smart phones aren’t out of the ordinary for the shop now – but a far cry from the days of developing negatives in a darkroom and certainly a far cry from the tasks Rob was doing when he was working at Hoyer’s after school in 1974.
“The whole industry is just taking this tremendous switch, from being like the tried-and-true, film-in-the-camera, processing-negatives-and-prints thing, to using your phone for photos, or your tablet,” he said.
But he isn’t one of those types who are resistant to change and dream of living in another era; rather, he embraces the present and all it has to offer.
When I asked if he had to choose, if he preferred film or digital, after a second of hesitation and starting the “f” sound, he ultimately said digital, because after years now of getting used to it, he really appreciates the instant gratification of knowing what you took. But he still cites film as being the more creative process because of all that’s involved.
So, the long, ever-changing photography saga continues, and so does Hoyer’s, as they both continuously evolve to fit our technology-obsessed needs.
Hoyer’s may have lost the building on West Fourth Street, but they surely haven’t lost the generosity that many older folks say has gone extinct among all of the chaos in today’s culture. Colley was sure to let me know that I should bring my DSLR that has a dust spot on the lens in so he can have a look at it. I leave feeling grateful – an hour well-spent discussing history and an art form that I love dearly.
As a last sort of hurrah for my first column, I give you Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is quoted saying that “Lost time is never found again.” But I have to disagree with the Founding Father.
Colley recently found what he calls a “treasure trove” of photos of Williamsport in a chest from the old store – long lost and forgotten captured moments in time. I call that finding lost time. Hopefully we will get to see these past moments at a future photography show. And perhaps at the same time have our tablets looked at. Are you an expert on iOS 7 yet, Rob?