The Story of Joseph Woodland & It's Meaning for Photographers

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Joseph Woodland died this month at the age of 91 and he is the man who invented the bar code as we find it on anything we are buying nowadays. The invention was made in the late 1940ies and patented 60 years ago. Woodland, a graduate student, worked together with his classmate Bernard Silver on the technology, but it was Woodlands experience as a boy scout and sitting for months on the beach in Miami what brought the breakthrough.

When the work didn’t progress at university he quit and spent a winter in Miami Beach where he was sitting the whole day on the beach thinking. And then suddenly the puzzle fell into place. The knowledge of the simple Morse code, he learned as a boy scout, and running his fingers through the sand made him suddenly draw lines with four fingers, realizing that these lines could be wide and narrow depending on the information they carry and the bar code was found.

Woodland and Silver were ahead of their time and the scanning technology was not yet ready to apply the invention for mass production. They sold their patent for USD 15,000. That was all what they got for it ever, besides the honors from the academic world.

But what is the essence and what does it tell
photographers? Your way of photographing might be different than what anybody else is doing and what no photography course is teaching, but it doesn’t mean that it is no good. You might just be creative and ahead of your time. As Woodland did, be yourself and follow your intuition, your path. There might be a point that all puzzle pieces will fall into place. Well, and don’t give away your art to quickly and to cheap, at least if you are in the position to wait. You are creating something with every photo you take, worth attention and respect.

Keep going!

Source: The New York Times, read the full article

Ute Sonnenberg for