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Tools of the Trade

Posted on September 13, 2011 @ 4:32 AM in Uncategorized

Are we tools if we use them? I think not!

I recently visited the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. The stunning home of Kodak’s founder is an international museum of photography.

There was a fascinating exhibition not only of Norman Rockwell’s iconic illustrations but of the sketches, photos and equipment he used to create them.

In a video narrated by his son, Peter, we learned that Rockwell considered himself an illustrator rather than an artist, even though he had studied fine arts and complementary courses such as drawing human anatomy.

Illustrating the cover of the Saturday Evening Post was not an artistic endeavour as much as a production job, like that of reporters filing stories to deadline. Creativity on demand and on time!

Norman Rockwell put the new technologies of his day to work for him.

He started out by photographing models, but soon switched to enlisting friends and neighbours to pose for his black and white shots. Rockwell was a genius at coaxing expressions from his subjects and capturing them on Eastman’s Kodak film.

He sheepishly admitted to using a Balopticon to project his photos onto paper or canvas so that he could trace the images and fill them in with colour and detail.

Invented by another Rochester company, Bausch & Lomb, the Balopticon was also called a “magic lantern” – essentially a precursor to the modern slide projector.

Rockwell had a love/hate affair with his Balopticon. He found that it sped up the production process for him considerably but he felt obliged to hide it like a guilty secret whenever someone visited his studio!

These days, we all rely on our own tools of the trade, no matter what our particular field. Is a writer any less talented for using a computer keyboard instead of putting pen to paper? An accountant who used an abacus instead of Excel would probably be hurting for clients.

Social media, email, smartphones, apps – these are the working tools of today’s business people. Problems arise when we forget that they are only tools. They can’t replace the human element. They’re meant to serve us, not the other way around.

Excessive use of tools can lead to the atrophy of those “muscles” we need to keep flexing now more than ever: imagination, compassion, humour.

“2Bor nt2B” just doesn’t have the same “je ne sais quoi”.

N’est-ce pas?

What are the tools of your trade?
Who masters whom?

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