The Canal and the Camera
From:  The History of the Panama Canal
by  Ira E. Bennett, 1915

There are interesting features about the canal other than the great work of construction.   Among these may be classed the story of the building of the canal as told by photography.  The canal is the first great engineering enterprise, occurring in the history of the kodak, or, it might said, in the histooroy of amateur photography.   The complete photographic records of the canal construction suggest the part the kodak is destined to play in the future in recording historical events.

The story of the building of the great Egyptian pyramids is buried deep iin the sands of the desert, and the world has not even a tradition as to when, how, and under what sacrifices they were erected.  The story of the building of the Panama Canal is pictured in millions of permanent films, and will be carried to succeeding generations.

From the moment it was announced to the world that the United States had acquired sovereignty over a strip of territory running from ocean to ocean, and through that narrow strip would dig a canal connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific, the Canal Zone became a favorite field for amateur photographers.  Kodaks were to be seen everywhere.  Camera-armed tourists went to the Isthmus in troops, snapping every foot of the great ditch from Panama to Colon.  Officially and unofficially they covered every detail of the work, from the steam shovels which scooped up earth and stone by the ton, to the little donkey engines that hauled the dirt to the dumping grounds.  Every incident connected with the work is somewhere on photographic records.

Through the work of the kodakers the public in this country and in Europe was able to trace from day to day every step in the work of building the canal.  Through them the Gatun dam and Culebra Cut are as familiar to the public as are the Capitol at Washington or Niagara Falls.  These pictures have also brought to the comprehension of the public the difficult and complex engineering problems connected with the work.  In addition to their immediate educational value they have furnished a valuable historical record.

Picture taking on the scale followed at Panama, and under the conditions existing in the tropics, would have been impossible but for the kodak system.  The combination of heat and moisture incidental to tropical climates tends to melt the photographic emulsion, and, consequently, is fatal to the photographic image.  This difficulty is only avoided by developing the films as soon as exposed.  The means of doing this in a simple, practical way is supplied by the kodak system.

The kodak system enables the amateur to go forth on a picture-taking tour with no other equipment than a handful of film cartridges, a kodak, and a daylight developing outfit, which he can tuck under his arm.  With this system he can take and develop his pictures anywhere.  He is independent alike of climate or dark room.  It is the freedom from the ordinary impedients of the photographer that makes the system so necessary in these fast-moving modern days.

Presented by CZBrats
February 12, 1999
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