Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tom Robinson and the Historic Photo Archive

I first met Tom Robinson in 1978, when we were both involved in the punk scene here in Portland. He was the sound man. Much of his equipment was what he found in estate sales and thrift stores. On Artstar he told me that as the 1980s rolled along, bands on tour, even “alternative” bands, began to want to see the same equipment - and things in general became more uniform and commercial. And so Tom found something else to collect and fine-tune – photography.

In Oregon photography circles his story is fairly well known, his rise to fame as a master printer and then, archivist. He's got some books out too. Still, when I returned to Portland after a sixteen year absence, I was blown away at how much ground he had covered and how many skills he had acquired. His knowledge is encyclopedic and that’s no exaggeration.

Nowadays he also collects old home movies and has found a way to transfer these 8mm films into HD files. He demonstrates his invention in this video. He also makes a very compelling case for the supremacy of the negative over the print. Makes sense to me. What is also interesting to consider in light of this is how few negatives are being made these days.

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