I have recently been viewing entries into a camera club monthly photo contest – I delivered the verdict one evening. There was a set subject as well as an open section, and there were prints on the night to supplement the electronic images shown on-line. The subject was panoramas, and I was as unqualified to judge them as if they were scientific charts or economic theories. In the end I found myself liking the ones that stood out to my eye – whether that was because they were more brightly coloured or closer to chocolate-box illustrations. Trite had a good chance of taking the blue ribbon.
Was this lack of taste? Lack of brains? Lack of vitamins? No – it was a legacy of the Kodak Colorama in Grand Central Station in New York – a 1950-1990 phenomenon that saw an 18′ x 60 ‘ colour transparency – one a month – erected and backlit for the commuters. They were the best of commercial advertising production done by the best technical means…and an icon of the times. They still exist, though they are not on display. Grand Central has been massively redeveloped and Kodak has been massively lost. Fortunately the originals are in storage and books showing them are available in the photographic press – I own one of these books.
Panoramas are nearly always landscapes – nearly but not always. There has been a tradition of large-group shots in this form ever since photography was born. While there were few people shots in the camera club entries, it was encouraging to see that several were what could only be described as fine art. Patterns, themes, and scenes shown for no purpose other than beauty.
I look forward to seeing future printed panoramas as well – it should be possible with the modern inkjet printer and a long roll of paper to get equally stunning views. A bit hard to hang with any standard that one might find in IKEA, but then that is what we have custom framers for.