Popular Monrovia Photographer Goes Back to the Future with 35mm Film

Rick Keshishi
Rick Keshishi with a handful of empty 35mm rolls he’s processed. -Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

They shoot film, don’t they?

By Terry Miller

Many photographers are putting down their smartphones or digital cameras in favor of shooting the old-fashioned way. Like vinyl records, good old typewriters and other wonderful analog stuff, film has an endearing, real and uncensored appeal and is making a strong comeback among professionals and hobbyists alike.

The invention of modern photography, by Louis Daguerre, was officially announced in 1839. Cameras were being produced commercially within the year of that monumental announcement. What happened in those first hundred years was astounding, magnificent and significantly rocked the art world.

Moving ahead to the 21st century, Steven Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak, built the first recorded digital camera in 1975 using the CCD from a Fairchild Semiconductor. It was a working prototype. Then, with rapid fire succession, the digital explosion changed everything in the late 1990s. Digital cameras virtually replaced film cameras overnight and film suddenly became a thing of the past — somewhat akin to John Cleese’s observation in the Dead Parrot skit in Monty Python: “It ceased to exist! It is no more.”

Not, however, for one determined Monrovia photographer. For 22 years there’s been basically only one guy in Monrovia who would sell, develop and print your 35mm film. He lives and breathes photography, especially film.

Rick Keshishi owns and operates Photoworks by Rick on Foothill Boulevard, just west of Myrtle. Keshishi is very involved in the community, photographing local events such as parades and special events.

When we first met Keshishi, 20 years ago, his shop (then in the Vons shopping center) was literally buzzing and churning out hundreds of rolls of 35mm film a day and subsequent hi-tech machines were printing those negatives under his watchful eye.

He is a master printer whose color correcting eye is far superior to any I have seen in this business. And although the last decade has deviated from film to digital, Keshishi never skipped a beat and always continued to shoot, develop and print film while honoring new technology.

But as time and technology marched onward, small film developing and printing shops started going out of business. It was now so easy for people to shoot digital pictures and print those images on a home printer. Not only was technology getting better, it was getting much more affordable. For a few hundred bucks, basically, you could have your own digital darkroom and print your own pictures.

Anyone in the photo business had to adapt and embrace digital technology or starve.  Keshishi did exactly that and for years focused on all digital aspects of photography from retouching old images to digitalizing film, 8mm reels and even converting old VHS home movies to DVDs, etc. In fact, if it involves imaging, Keshishi is your man.

Kodak started selling Kodak DCS-100 which had 1.3 megapixels at a price of $13,000, originally. That seems like a lifetime ago.

Now, for some reason, 35mm film is making a comeback — a big comeback. Photoworks by Rick has seen a sudden uptick in the number of rolls of good old Kodak 35mm film being dropped off for developing and printing. He has also been able to use his large scale printers to make massive signs for the local community.

“No one could foresee this after such a digital revolution, it’s wonderful.” Keshishi told Monrovia Weekly.

The resurgence of film is a marvelous trend as many who use digital cameras forget the basic formulas that help contribute to a good image. Experimenting with manual or aperture priority settings on these digital cameras could produce much better results.

Photoworks by Rick is located at 109 W. Foothill Blvd. in Monrovia. For more information, call (626) 303-5555, email rick@photoworksbyrick.com, or visit photoworksbyrick.com.

For more research on those incredible years as photography evolved, I highly recommend one of my favorite references: Juliet Hacking’s book “Photography: the Whole Story.”


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