Big Shot of Kodak Tower coming into focus

Follow Rich Kiley on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

This year’s photo session seeks to capture Rochester’s Kodak Tower, a tall building in the midst of a busy downtown block.

As a then-sophomore photography student at RIT, Laura Zigarowicz ’98 (biomedical photographic communications) fondly remembered a brisk October night back in 1996 when she donned a vintage baseball jersey to serve as part of Big Shot No. 10 at the old Silver Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.

“I remember the uniforms being very heavy and kind of itchy,” Zigarowicz recalled. “It was a chilly night, but it was a lot of fun. I wanted to help in any way I could.”

Today, Zigarowicz remains a photography enthusiast and serves at a company with a name synonymous with pictures. She is brand manager at Eastman Kodak Co., whose Kodak Tower on State Street will be the focus of Big Shot No. 32 around 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Often described as “painting with light,” the Big Shot relies on the participation of volunteers to provide the primary light source for the image while RIT photographers shoot an extended exposure. It’s a signature event for RIT and is led by the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS), which is nationally recognized for its degree programs. The first Big Shot photo—Highland Hospital in Rochester— was made in December, 1987.

“I’m really excited to be part of it,” said Zigarowicz, who has participated in a number of Big Shots since graduating from RIT. “Usually I just show up with a flashlight wearing a dark shirt, but to actually be involved with Kodak and getting our employees engaged gives me a new perspective.”

The timing of next month’s Big Shot comes as film is making a comeback, Zigarowicz observed. On the heels of celebrating 50 years of manufacturing Super 8 film, Kodak is launching an “Analog Renaissance” aimed at putting Super 8 cameras into the hands of a new generation of filmmakers as well as meeting the needs of top movie directors, indie filmmakers and others who appreciate the art and craft of filmmaking.

Fittingly, the RIT Big Shot team is planning to employ photographic technologies from past centuries taking this picture, including a camera that will use a wet plate collodion process invented in the 1850s; two cameras that will use dry plate film invented in the late 1880s just like George Eastman himself would have used; and a large format C-41 film camera. Two Nikon D810 digital cameras also will once again be used to record the Big Shot exposure.

“Using so many historic and modern camera and photographic technologies together will be a first for the Big Shot,” said Michael Peres, associate chair of SPAS and one of the Big Shot organizers. “We hope this will really place the emphasis on the subject of photography, Kodak and Rochester.”

Peres noted that the sheer height of the Big Shot subject will provide a unique test for the photo team. “The Kodak Tower is 19 stories high and getting the light all the way to the roof will challenge our team,” Peres said. “We are working on ways to locate specialized Profoto lighting equipment—including powerful battery-operated electronic flash systems—onto the rooftops of other Kodak and adjoining buildings.”

Continuing the Big Shot tradition of serving as a nighttime community photography project, Monroe Community College and the City of Rochester also will play key roles for the event. MCC officials will work with RIT by placing lighting teams inside areas of the complex under renovation as part of the college’s new downtown campus. Meanwhile, city officials will direct M.L. Caccamise Electric Corp. to turn off street lights and redirect traffic as necessary. Many of the lighting teams will be positioned on State Street when the shutter opens, Peres noted.

In the upcoming weeks before the event, the photo team will be busy with countless logistics, including refining the vantage point for the photo and where to situate other lighting teams—all while keeping a wary eye on Rochester’s unpredictable weather.

An alumni gathering is planned for the nearby Genesee Brew House, and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences is planning to bus students to the event.

“Every project is different; that’s what keeps it fun,” Peres said. “We want this picture to have spirit. We’re hoping for good weather and a big crowd.”

Zigarowicz said she can’t wait for the next Big Shot “Kodak Moment.”

“This will be a feel-good event for our company,” she said. It’s now our turn.”

Photography through the years

The RIT Big Shot team is planning to use four photographic technologies from past centuries while taking this picture: wet plate collodion, dry plate and flexible film, color negative film and digital technology.

Towering technical challenges

The Kodak letters will be turned off and on to create the timed exposure needed to maintain image sharpness and serve as an important detail in the photograph.

Since the photo’s subject is the Kodak Tower, keeping light off the adjacent MCC buildings will accentuate the focus on the 19-story edifice.

Street lighting will be temporarily turned off and many of the lighting teams will be positioned along and around State Street when the shutter opens.