In 2005 the famous aerial photographer-book publisher Robert Cameron and Master Photograph Printer-Artist Timothy Hall (SF neighbors over 40 years) first met . Mr. Cameron was then in his nineties, highly independent, busy working from his SF office, publishing the highly successful 'ABOVE BOOKS' series. Mr. Cameron was (as his business card stated): "Robert Cameron, World's Oldest One-Eyed Aerial Photographer." He still regularly strapped himself into a Bell Helicopter, photographing Above with his very heavy gyro-stabilized Pentax 6x7 Camera.
The two immediately began working together in a race against time. True photo-graphic imaging was phasing out. Supplies of film and processing chemicals were dwindling. Mr. Cameron was already 94 years old. Tim became Mr. Cameron's eyes in the darkroom producing the following works:
1) The ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNEY (gallery filled 1/3 of S.F. Metreon's ground floor for two year run
2) Limited signed photograph (possibly the best ever taken) of jazz great Louie Armstrong
3) Yet to be displayed: ABOVE EXHIBITION
4) Limited signed portfolios: CameronFolio
Knowing that Mr. Cameron was a good friend, golfing buddy and also a competitor of Mr. Ansel Adams (and having worked on both R.Cameron and A.Adams images), the following comparative statement on these two world famous photographers is worth contemplating: "Bob’s work often evokes a strong emotional response, his black and white capture of Louie Armstrong is extraordinarily good, and although his work is very different in perspective, technically speaking, Bob’s color work is better than Ansel Adams. The 18 images chosen by Bob to include into his folio of prints are printed onto Kodak Metallic paper. They were printed in the C3Lab darkroom and processed in photographic chemistry. All the images were exposed onto film and none were shot with a digital camera. As analogue prints will become more and more rare as time goes on, this folio of images will become a treasure of the past." Tim Hall
Who: Founder/Artist/Curator/President of Color3LAB and Mr. Robert Cameron's photographic estate. C3Lab was San Francisco's final professional photo film color lab. Professional services: drum scanning, C-Printing, framing, mounting, laminating, custom finishing service, master composite negatives, film/photo paper developing chemistry software.
Source of start-up capital: Personal funds put up by myself and two brothers. The three in Color3Lab has a dual meaning: three brothers and also the three primary additive colors (RGB) used in photographic print process
Education background: S.F.S.U. graduate with BA in Music. Artistically I'm very fortunate to have both good ears and good eyes. In my career the eyes won as I moved toward photographic printing. I registered for and was put on the waiting list to study under Ansel Adams. In the meantime, I self studied his program and took a print production position at an established S.F. Photo Lab. The spot did open in Ansel's class and I received the invitation to attend. Since I was already working full time as the Lab Production Manager and guaranteed that there would be a space for me in the next class, I passed on that opportunity. Very unfortunately for him (and for me too) Ansel passed away that next year
Big picture reason for starting business: Wanting to do things my way
Most difficult part of decision: Borrowing money
Biggest plus of ownership: Doing things my own way, we built the lab with many production efficiencies. For instance the enlarging rooms were constructed purposefully to limit the amount of walking distance between printing, processing and finishing. The process has changed so much over the years that these efficiencies no longer matter, however back in the 80's and 90's it gave us a distinct advantage
Biggest drawback: There are just so many hours in every day, and often to get projects completed to my satisfaction, I have to do them myself
Biggest misconception: Assuming there were enough people (similar to myself) that would be available to work for the lab
Biggest business strength: I am very good at seeing what does and doesn't work in a photograph
Biggest business weakness: Handling money
Biggest risk: Borrowing $750,000 to go digital
Biggest mistake: Putting trust in some individuals that proved to be untrustworthy
Smartest move: Downsizing when necessary and not giving up. A lot of our old business has been lost due to: the current economy, changing technology and the desire by many customers that cheaper price is more important then quality of product. These changes have pretty much eliminated all of our former worthy competitors
Most challenging task: Running Color3LAB business differently then every other business that I worked at
Favorite task: Making wonderful photographs
Least favorite task: Managing salespeople
Favorite film: The Matrix
Biggest frustration: Dealing honestly with dishonest people
Source of support in a business crisis: Focus and perseverance
Key goal yet to achieve: Peace of mind
First move with capital windfall: TBD
Stress Reducers: Good Music
Five year plan: Making photographs that matter
Most admired entrepreneur: Paul Newman
Most interested in meeting: Franz Schubert
Favorite pastimes: Anything with my kids
Automobile: Datsun 510 (1st car)
Favorite book: "Tao Te Ching", Lau Tzu
Favorite restaurant: Jyun Kang Vegetarian Restaurant at the City of 10,000 Buddhas (Talmage/Ukiah, CA)
What is on your iPod: I don’t listen to iPods
Business Focus: Assist City/State agencies and Nonprofits with sensible choices in outdoor advertising
What it does: Evolved from local print shop roots, Great Kolor secures low cost (high profile) outdoor ad space and then prints/installs the finished graphics
Source of start-up capital: Self financed
Education background: C.U.N.Y. Brooklyn College graduate with BA in Social Science
Reason for starting business: The company Gene worked at was purchased and closed in 2005. Great Kolor was born two weeks later. The moral of this story? When one door closes (very often) another will open for you
Most difficult part of decision: Not difficult--in a sink or swim moment, it's good for you to know that swimming is your sensible option
Biggest plus of ownership: The empowerment of being in charge of your own destiny
Biggest drawback: Negative is the flip side of positive. Being in charge puts responsibility squarely on your shoulders. Business is dependent on your state of mind and business successes and failures are owned by you
Biggest mistake: Summer of 2007 an incorrectly spec'd restaurant window graphic was printed, delivered and couldn't install. Although (at the time) a serious failure it caused a major improvement. Going forward every job begins with a one page agreement. This includes the exact specification, production, turnaround time and price commitment. Next there's a sign-off for final art approval. So before any printing moves forward--we (and client) review and sign-off on art and job specification twice. The results? It's been ten+ years and counting of perfect printing
Biggest business strength: Very fortunate that many clients compliment us with glowing endorsements for reliability, quality and dedication to excellent customer service
Biggest business weakness: None. Well okay, maybe outreach for new business can be improved. Fortunately solid referrals continue to deliver new clients and business
Biggest risk: None, Great Kolor is a tight little business
Smartest move: Decision to put resources into organizing a Nonprofit education program. We call it the Not-For-Profit Publicity Workshop. The venues: California Historical Society, ODC Dance, SS Jeremiah O'Brien, Mission Cultural Center, Robert Cameron’s Environmental Journey in the Metreon were all excellent and feedback from attendees has been terrific
Favorite task: Aligning clients wants and needs with Great Kolor's capabilities
Least favorite task: Having to say no
Source of support in a business crisis: My much better half, St. Michelle
Biggest frustration: Commuter traffic
Most challenging task: Same as favorite task--aligning capabilities with our clients wants and needs
Key goal yet to achieve: Financial stability, for short period of time we had it, then the 2009 housing bust cleaned our clock. Years later, lesson learned and once again we're doing fine
Inducement to sell: I really enjoy doing this so it would be a substantial buyout to induce selling--although an eight figure proposal would definitely cause me to stop, sit and listen
First move with capital windfall: Once around the world trip on boat and train (just me & the Mrs.)
Most admired entrepreneur: Benjamin Franklin
Most interested in meeting: Napoleon Hill and my parents again
Favorite film: The Lion King
Favorite pastimes: Hiking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with my family and friends
Favorite destination: Mt Evans, Colorado
Favorite book: “The Magic of Thinking Big”, written by Dr. David J Schwartz
Stress reducers: Listening to motivational CD’s in the car
Favorite restaurant: Nordstrom’s Café
Five year plan: Take that world vacation
What is on your iPod: Don’t have one (remarkable, huh ? : )
Photographer Profile Sam Whiting, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, November 12, 2009
Three months ago, Robert Cameron was hanging out of a helicopter taking pictures of Lombard Street. That was the last flight for the indefatigable "Above San Francisco" photographer who died Tuesday at his home in Pacific Heights.
He was 98 and in the midst of his last show - "Environmental Journey: Robert Cameron's Aerial Photography of our Pacific Rim," which is on display at the Metreon in downtown San Francisco.
"He just wore out," said his son, Tony Cameron.
Over four decades, Mr. Cameron produced 15 coffee table books in the "Above" series, with 3 million copies in print. These include overhead views of New York, London, Washington, D.C., Paris, Mexico City, Chicago. There are four volumes of "Above San Francisco."
Robert William Cameron was born April 21, 1911, in Des Moines, Iowa, where he was raised. After his first year at the University of Iowa, he dropped out and spread his tuition money across six months in Paris.
He'd been taking pictures since his father, a dentist, gave him a Brownie at age 8, so upon his return he landed a job as a news photographer at the Des Moines Register. He got his start shooting aerials when he contracted with the U.S. Army to take night pictures of exploding ordnance and tracers during World War II.
After the war, Mr. Cameron, who was by then married to his high school sweetheart, Janet Elliott, moved their four children to New York, where he became partner in a perfume company, Marcel Rochas, which is still going. He was a regular in a gin game on a commuter train to Darien, Conn., until Thanksgiving Day 1959, when he convened a family meeting.
"He said, 'I'm tired of the frozen winters and the steaming summers,' " recalled Tony Cameron. " 'I'm in love with the city of San Francisco, and I want to move there. Who's in?' "
They arrived in January 1960, and he started Cameron and Co., selling champagne-formula shampoo and a product that purported to cool cigarette smoke so it would be less harmful.
His big break came in 1964, when he created and published "The Drinking Man's Diet," a concept that Chronicle columnist Herb Caen could embrace.
"Herb Caen launched it, and it caused a lot of excitement and sold 2,400,000 copies at a dollar apiece," Mr. Cameron said in a Chronicle interview in 2005.
The success of the diet book allowed him to follow a hunch that a coffee table picture book, using the skills he had learned doing aerial photography during the war, would sell.
He self-published his first aerial book, "Above San Francisco," in 1969.
"The book sold like crazy," Mr. Cameron said. "I sold out 10,000 copies."
Later editions added text by Alistair Cooke, Herb Caen and Chronicle columnist Art Hoppe.
In the early 1970s, he produced a 45-minute film version of "Above San Francisco," which had a long run at a theater in the Cannery.
In 2003, Mr. Cameron mounted a career retrospective, with prints 9 feet long, at the Presidio Officers' Club.
Asked at the time about slowing down, he said: "Retirement is when they bring the wicker basket in." He was blind in his left eye from macular degeneration and carried a business card that said "Robert Cameron, World's Oldest One-Eyed Aerial Photographer."
On his last flight, he had minimal vision in his right eye, and he was completely blind by the time he died.
"One thing he attributed to his long life was the 5,000 rounds of golf he played at the San Francisco Golf Club," said Tony Cameron. He also was a proponent of a daily drink, a martini or gin gimlet or single-malt scotch. "We were putting a little scotch in his ice cubes last week," his son said.
NEW YORK TIMES http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/arts/22cameron.html?_r=0
CAMERON BOOKS http://cameronbooks.com/cameron-books-2/