I began work at Davidson College in January of 2007. I was the first to hold the title of “Campus Videographer”. The idea of video on Davidson’s campus was new. A lot of people didn’t quite know how to utilize it. Which was good, being new to high education, it gave me some time to figure out how to use it in that setting as well.
One of my first tasks was to re-invent the loaner pool. Before I had arrived, there was a hodge-podge of various cameras. Little thought was given to how they would work in a class environment. So I went back to my roots and called up some of my professors at Appalachian State University. I took a field trip to the school and spent the day chit-chatting with professors and getting a since for how they ran their loaner pool.
A small army of hand-held video cameras were purchased along with one big pro-style camera. A mishmash of audio gear and voice recorders followed. A set of tape decks were purchased to ingest the taped footage into the edit bays. A crude checkout system was put in place and before I could wipe my brow, the whole game changed. Standard definition gave its last dying breath to high definition content. So back to the drawing board I went.
How do I supply the students with cameras that can shoot high definition content? Do we need to shoot high definition content? I came to the conclusion that we should move forward but how? There were so many questions, I didn’t know where to turn. My supervisor turned me onto a local shop in Charlotte called “Camera World”. She suggested I go down and ask for George.
Upon arrival I walked into an old storefront and entered into a treasure-trove of cameras. I was greeted with a friendly, “Hello, how may I help you?” and I told them I was looking for “George”. They smiled and walked into the back and out came an older gentleman, befitting the name George. We began to talk and I told him my supervisor, Kristen had sent me. He immediately knew who she was and asked how she was doing. I asked him questions about cameras, what the future held and directions we should go. He got some models for me to look at. He had all the answers and knew his stuff. I wrote down a laundry list of items he had suggested and noticed as I walked out that a large part of their business was devoted to film processing. I thought to myself that you don’t see that as much as you use to.
I arrived back at my office and did some price comparisons and discovered that the online camera mega-story B&H Photo beat Camera World’s prices by ten to twelve percent. Now B&H Photo was once like Camera World, a small camera shop in New York. The difference was that someone at B&H had the foresight to see the Internet coming and jumped on board as the train left the station in the late 1990s. By 2007, B&H had become a coast-to-coast supplier for everything camera and video you’d ever want. They were the industry standard.
I still made about a third of my purchases from Camera World as a thank you for George’s time. Time I wouldn’t have gotten from B&H. At least not without getting on the phone or sending email and losing that whole personal interaction and relationship I formed with George. At the end of the day, I still put more money into B&H’s pocket than Camera World because it ultimately came down to dollars and cents.
I stayed in touch with George, asking questions and getting great advice. Then one day, on the front page of the Charlotte Observers website was an article at the bottom, announcing that after decades of service to the community, Camera World was closing their doors. It broke my heart a little but when I was in the store, I knew it was coming. You could see it in their business model. The digital age had swallowed up another “Mom and Pop” store.
I look back at what I lost when they closed and while it wasn’t evident at the time, it is now. When I have camera questions, I go to forums and websites and read what people say. You glean information from multiple sources now with little actual interaction and come up with an educated guess. There is no “George” anymore, just guys with “expert” opinions.
So I wax nostalgic about the good ‘ole days of George but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t give what I have now back to get Camera World reopened. With 2-day shipping and every kind of camera and part at the click of a mouse, the convenience is mind blowing.
I still spend a good bit of time on B&H’s website even though I’m just a guy with an expert opinion. They do a decent job of encouraging people to give reviews of gear, especially if it is something new. I do my best to interact on their site and give thoughtful and honest reviews. In a way, I guess I kind of keep the idea of George alive by doing so.